This week AT&T announced that it was acquiring Straight Path Communications in a deal which was said to be valued at $1.6 billion. However, now it seems as though things might not be so straight forward with this acquisition. Since the initial news came through, a report has emerged out of Reuters which not only confirms that a third-party is now readying a new offer that could top AT&T’s offer, but also that the third-party in question is Verizon.
At the moment, the first aspect (the existence of a third-party) has seemingly been confirmed by Straight Path, thanks to a regulatory filing made by the company on Thursday. So the fact that AT&T could get outbid by someone else is very real. However, the Verizon element has yet to be confirmed with the information coming to Reuters by way of “people familiar with the matter.” So it remains to be seen whether Verizon is definitely the third-party involved, and if they are, whether Verizon does intend to beat AT&T to the punch by acquiring Straight Talk. While this might seem like a sudden move since the deal had apparently already been announced, according to the same reports coming through, Verizon had always been in the race as they were in talks prior to the AT&T announcement. So it could be just a case of now that AT&T has made a firm offer, Verizon is now in the position where it also needs to make a firm offer – if it does want to close on the deal.
Of course, what this all comes down to at the end of the day is spectrum and in particular the 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter-wave spectrum owned by Straight Path. Both AT&T and Verizon are highly invested in readying their respective networks in lieu of the availability of 5G and it is understood that the 28 GHz and 39 GHz spectrum could play a significant role in furthering those ambitions, as it is prime spectrum for 5G. So the likelihood of Verizon being interested in upsetting the AT&T deal is a real possibility. Although until firm confirmation comes through from Straight Path or Verizon on this, AT&T presumably remains the front-runner to secure the deal, and by association, the highly sought-after spectrum.