NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Verizon ( VZ - Get Report) today said it is buying $3.6 billion in wireless spectrum from a joint venture held by Comcast ( CMCSA - Get Report) and Time Warner Cable ( TWC) and Bright House networks. The move bolsters Verizon's ability to serve mobile phone customers whose data demands are growing with the use of smartphones like Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone, at the exact moment that competitor AT&T ( T - Get Report) tries to keep its $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile alive.
Verizon's purchase, its biggest since a $28 billion purchase of Alltel, will give it 122 Advanced Wireless Services spectrum licenses covering 259 million users. It will buy Comcast's 63.6% stake in the venture for $2.3 billion, Time Warner Cable's 31.2% stake for $1.1 billion and Bright House's 5.3% stake for $189 million. "The agreement comes at a time when consumer demand for wireless services and bandwidth is increasing rapidly," said Verizon in a statement announcing the deal announced Friday. Along with the spectrum acquisitions, Verizon and the selling parties will further commit to selling wireless service agreements between each other, while also creating investing partnerships for information technology research and development "These agreements, together with our Wi-Fi plans, enable us to execute a comprehensive, long-term wireless strategy and expand our focus on providing mobility to our Xfinity services," said Neil Smit, president of Comcast Cable about the partnerships in a statement. For AT&T, the deal may only further underscore its imperative to bolster wireless capability, just as efforts like a merger with T-Mobile come under increasing threat by antitrust authorities. Verizon and AT&T shares rose slightly in early-trading on the deal news. In 2011, Verizon shares have risen over 5%, while AT&T has fallen over 1%, as competition cranks up in wireless spectrum. AT&T's ( T - Get Report) busy week of deal news heightened on Thursday when it blasted the Federal Communications Commission's analysis in opposing its T-Mobile merger. Saying that the FCC analysis "cherry-picks facts," AT&T wrote in a letter to the regulator, "This is clearly not the fair and objective analysis to which any party is entitled, and which we have every right to expect." Earlier in November, the FCC added to problems in AT&T's merger, the biggest of 2011 at $39 billion, when it said it would take the nation's second largest wireless carrier to court about the merger. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the merger on antitrust grounds.