AT&T announced a deal to pay $2.5 billion in cash for 12 MHz of spectrum held by Aloha Partners.

Under the agreement, AT&T will receive Aloha's paired spectrum from 710-716 MHz and from 740-746 MHz. The spectrum covers 196 million people in 281 markets, including 72 of the top 100 markets, according to AT&T.

With the deal — expected to close in six to nine months — AT&T gains a foothold in the band prior to the 700 MHz auction, which the FCC rescheduled to begin on Jan. 24.

“It makes it much easier for [AT&T] to have a nationwide license just with the A and B blocks, instead of going with the C or D,” said Roger Entner, senior vice president of communications for IAG Research. “So this really gives them a significant advantage in the upcoming 700 MHz auction. … It definitely shows that they're going to be a serious bidder.