Report: Paul Allen’s Vulcan Sells Wireless Spectrum Licenses to AT&T

9/16/09Follow @gthuang

Paul Allen, the Seattle-area billionaire who co-founded Microsoft, has agreed to sell 24 licenses for wireless spectrum in Washington and Oregon to AT&T, according to a report by Bloomberg News, which cites filings with the Federal Communications Commission. The price of the sale, which has not yet been approved by the FCC, is not disclosed.

A unit of AT&T called Mobility II is acquiring the licenses from Allen’s Vulcan Spectrum, based in Seattle. The spectrum covers airwaves in the 700 megahertz frequency range—the former “UHF” television band freed up for wireless use this year. According to Bloomberg, AT&T (NYSE: ATT) wants the licenses to support its introduction of “long-term evolution,” a next-generation wireless broadband service that competes with the WiMax service from Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR). Vulcan still owns licenses for other parts of the wireless spectrum in Seattle, Portland, and other areas.

Back in May, managing director Steve Hall of Vulcan Capital, Allen’s venture organization, told us that the investments in wireless spectrum fit into a broader focus on the mobile industry. Vulcan invested in two spectrum auctions, Hall said—one in 2003 (where the licenses in question come from) and one in 2008, deploying about $130 million in total. “We saw the scarcity of spectrum, running against what we believe demand is for appliances, devices, smartphones, iPhone,” Hall said at the time. Vulcan’s view, he added, was that infrastructure was “the best way to play.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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