AT&T Buys FLO TV Wireless Spectrum for 4G Network

AT&T boosted its 4G wireless network plans on Monday with the announcement that it is purchasing Qualcomm’s 700 MHz radio frequency band — currently used for the FLO TV service. The deal will cost AT&T US$1.925 billion.

The purchase includes 12 MHz of Qualcomm’s lower 700 MHz D and E block spectrum, and AT&T plans to use the frequencies to supplement wireless data downlinks for its customers.

While the purchase is good news for AT&T and its plans for its 4G wireless network rollout, it also spells the end of Qualcomm’s FLO TV business. Qualcomm currently uses the spectrum it’s selling to AT&T for the service, but now plans to shut it down in March 2011.

Qualcomm plans to produce chipsets mobile phone makers can use in their handset designs to take advantage of the extra bandwidth AT&T will be including in its 4G network upgrades.

Adding Qualcomm’s frequencies to its own network will give AT&T additional coverage in several congested areas such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The frequencies currently cover more than 300 million people through out the U.S.

AT&T said it is waiting for standard regulatory approval before closing the deal, which it expects should happen some time in the second half of 2011.