AT&T Pays $2.8B For Dobson As iPhone Rolls Out

As if the clamor over the iPhone weren't enough, AT&T grabbed headlines again on Friday with the late-afternoon announcement that it had agreed to acquire regional wireless communications company Dobson for $2.8 billion in cash, giving it access to Dobson's 1.7 million subscribers.

Dobson, which provides wireless services under the Cellular One brand in 17 states, has provided roaming service to AT&T and its family of companies since 1990. The deal will formalize the companies' historical working partnership, with minimal overlap, explains McCall Butler, AT&T spokeswoman.

Pending approval of the deal, Cellular One will be rebranded as AT&T, though "it's too soon to say what plans for that brand transition will be," Butler tells Marketing Daily, "but they'll move pretty soon once approvals come in to make the transition."

The deal's announcement after the stock markets closed on Friday, just as the first iPhones were being sold on the East Coast, was serendipity, Butler says. "It's a nice tie-in given that one of the deals' benefits for Dobson customers is access to AT&T products like the iPhone."



In addition to access to Dobson's network -- which covers rural and suburban areas in Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- the deal will grant AT&T the benefit of Dobson's 850 MHz spectrum, which will enhance the quality of AT&T's service quality in those markets.

The agreement comes a month after leading rural regional wireless carrier Alltel, whose "My Circle" campaign kicked off the must-have "faves" calling plan trend among all carriers, was acquired for $25 billion by private equity firm TPG Group and the buyout arm of Goldman Sachs, marking the largest private equity deal for the telecommunications industry.

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