FCC Approves AT&T’s $1.2B Purchase Of Leap Wireless

AT&T just gained 5 million new customers. No, it wasn’t the company’s offer to provide credit to switching customers. This influx comes after the Federal Communications Commission approved the Death Star’s acquisition of Leap Wireless.

The $1.19 billion deal to procure the small company, best known for Cricket prepaid wireless service, was first announced last July. Before the deal could move forward the FCC decided to investigate the effects the acquisition would have on consumers, The Verge reports.

In addition to picking up 5 million customers, the acquisition gives AT&T a strong presence in the prepaid market. The larger company is expected to use Leap’s assets to bolster its network capacity in larger markets.

Consumers who use Cricket will gain access to a larger LTE network.

Officials with the FCC say AT&T made concessions and commitments to counterbalance the agencies concerns about the deal. AT&T agreed to divest spectrum in certain markets and to deploy LTE service using unused Leap spectrum within 90 days or 12 months of closing. AT&T will also offer certain rate plans to help the value-conscious consumers currently using Cricket.

“We find that the public interest benefits of the proposed transaction outweigh the likelihood of significant public interest harms, such that overall, the proposed transaction is in the public interest,” officials with the FCC said.

This isn’t AT&T’s first go-around with the FCC when it comes to mergers.

In March 2011, AT&T announced it would buy T-Mobile in a $39 billion deal. Almost immediately the merger came under scrutiny by federal regulators.

The Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust called on the FCC and Department of Justice to block the merger because the deal would “likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers.”

And the FCC and DOJ did just that, saying they would both fight the merger. Shortly, afterward, AT&T withdrew from the merger.

Following the demise of the deal, the companies have enjoyed a rather public one-upping of each other with deals to lure consumers away from the other.

In January, the DOJ’s antitrust chief said the decision to block the merger in 2011 has only helped wireless customers, “competition in the wireless sector has flourished and consumers have benefitted.”

FCC approves AT&T’s purchase of Leap Wireless, says it’s ‘in the public interest’ [The Verge]