AT&T reportedly in talks to buy Leap Wireless

The Cricket carrier is small, but could have spectrum AT&T needs

AT&T has recently been in talks to buy Leap Wireless, a carrier operating in 35 states with 6 million customers, according to three unnamed sources cited in a report from Reuters.

According to Reuters, Leap hired bankers to advise it on a possible deal, but it wasn't clear whether the talks are ongoing.

Leap is small compared to AT&T, which has 101 million wireless subscribers. Also, Leap operates over a CDMA network, different from AT&T's GSM and LTE networks. Leap's market value is about $400 million.

Leap's primary revenue comes from its Cricket wireless service, a pre-paid, no contract offer.

The talks make sense because AT&T is on a wireless spectrum hunt like many carriers who sell smartphones and tablets. Those devices are expected to dramatically increase demand for bandwidth as video and other data-rich applications roll out over the next few years.

AT&T and Leap declined to comment.

AT&T tried to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion last year, but federal regulators blocked the merger.

Deutsche Telekom, which owns T-Mobile USA, has been reported to be trying to merge with another smaller carrier, MetroPCS, although neither company will comment. Sprint reportedly tried to buy MetroPCS in February.

Verizon Wireless recently sought FCC approval to buy $3.9 billion in wireless spectrum from cable companies in two separate deals.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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