updated 11:49 pm EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
$1.3 billion paid for first US regional carrier to offer the iPhone
The Federal Communications Commission has approved the buyout of Leap Wireless by AT&T, a $1.3 billion cash deal that will see America's largest carrier acquire Leap's PCS and AWS band spectrum, which it will use for LTE expansion, as well as Leap's 4.6 million customers. Leap was the first independent regional carrier to offer a prepaid iPhone in 2012, and as a concession in the acquisition deal, AT&T will continue the option, as well as offer GSM iPhone support and migration to Cricket users.
Cricket (which recently joined with another regional carrier, AIO Wireless) covers some 35 states and offered contract-free Android and iPhones with its plans, charging $500 for entry-capacity premium models but offering lower-cost monthly plans than most larger competitors (an unlimited talk and data plan typically cost around $55 per month). During FCC deliberations, commissioners required that AT&T take over Cricket's exchange policies, implement a trade-in program allowing customers to specifically upgrade their existing Leap CDMA-based iPhones for AT&T's GSM-based versions without penalty, and honor existing monthly plans -- including basic "Lifeline" plans.