T-Mobile USA took a major step forward in its plan to roll out fourth-generation (4G) long term evolution (LTE) wireless services, as the FCC on Wednesday approved the transfer of advanced wireless service (AWS) spectrum assets held by AT&T to T-Mobile. AT&T had agreed to hand over its AWS licenses to T-Mobile as partial compensation for the withdrawal of the companies’ $39 billion merger agreement last December. As part of its break-up agreement with T-Mobile in the wake of the companies’ failed merger, AT&T will hand over to T-Mobile AWS licenses covering 128 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) that include 12 of the top 20 CMAs in the U.S. Valued at $1 billion, the AWS licenses in question cover 128 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) that include 12 of the top 20 CMAs in the U.S. Those spectrum assets will augment an additional cash payment of $3 billion that T-Mobile will receive from AT&T pursuant to the terms of the break-up agreement. Recently, T-Mobile confirmed its plan to invest $4 billion in deploying LTE throughout its nationwide wireless network starting next year. T-Mobile USA chief technology officer Neville Ray described AT&T’s AWS licenses as “a key catalyst for our plans to launch LTE in 2013.” While applauding the FCC “for acting swiftly to approve the transfer of these spectrum licenses,” a T-Mobile spokesman emphasized that his company “continues to need more AWS spectrum to support its 4G evolution efforts and the continued growth in mobile data services.”