AT&T To Acquire Leap Wireless (Cricket) For Around $1.2B

Hey, Cricket customers! You’re about to become AT&T customers.

AT&T has just announced that they’ve agreed to acquire Leap Wireless, the parent company behind Cricket Wireless.

As part of the deal, AT&T will be acquiring all of Leap’s towers, stores, and all 5.3 million of their subscribers.

For the time being, it sounds like AT&T will keep Cricket running as its own brand. Cricket stores will continue to be Cricket stores — the two carriers will just share spectrum, which should increase network quality for everyone.

So, why would AT&T make this purchase? It’s all about the spectrum. While AT&T was spending the last few years trying to snatch up access to more wireless frequencies to be able to handle more users and more voice/data traffic, Leap CEO Doug Hutcheson was saying that huge chunks (as in, 60%) of their own spectrum was going unused. At the time, he valued their chunk of the spectrum alone at around $3 billion.

If the deal goes through, this will bump AT&T from 107 million subscribers to 112 — still just behind Verizon in the battle for the biggest US carrier.

AT&T says that they plan to pay $15 dollars per share. With 79 million Leap shares outstanding, this works out to just short of $1.2B.

It’s not quite the massive T-Mobile merger they were hoping for (before the plan went south in late 2011), but it’s something.