San Diego Business Journal

Leap to Sell Airwaves Rights to Advance Expansion Plans

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Leap Wireless International, which offers cellphone service under the Cricket brand, said it plans to buy and sell the rights to the airwaves in certain U.S. markets, and use the proceeds to upgrade its network to next-generation technology.

According to a Dec. 5 announcement:

• Leap has entered a deal to give it more capacity in the Chicago market. Specifically, it plans to buy rights to 12 megahertz worth of spectrum from Verizon Wireless for $204 million. The move would supplement 10 megahertz of spectrum Leap already uses in that city.

• The transaction would go two ways. Leap said it plans to sell Verizon some of its excess spectrum in various, unspecified U.S. markets for $188 million.

• Savary Island Wireless LLC — which Leap describes as a non-controlled and majority-held venture — has struck a deal to sell Verizon some of the spectrum it holds in various U.S. markets for $172 million. Cricket will use some of the proceeds to pay off debt.

Leap said the deals would end up giving it net cash proceeds of more than $100 million. The San Diego company said it will use the proceeds to help its deployment of a fourth-generation cellphone technology called LTE. Leap said it plans to roll out LTE over two-thirds of its network footprint within two to three years.

The transactions still need regulatory approval.

Leap stock trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol LEAP.

— Brad Graves