Verizon is selling North Carolina spectrum licenses covering Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh to Grain Management, a private-equity firm, for $189 million.

The company is also selling spectrum elsewhere to AT&T (NYSE: T) for $1.9 billion.

The deals are part of a year-long spectrum reshuffling process for Verizon and AT&T. AT&T is on the hunt for more spectrum, while Verizon has been optimizing its holdings to make them easier to use with wireless service.

AT&T wants to bolster its network in a region that covers 42 million people.

The 700-megahertz spectrum spans 18 states, including California, Texas, New York and Florida, AT&T said today in a regulatory filing.

The deal is expected to be completed in the second half of 2013.

The Dallas-based company will use the airwaves to build out its next-generation network, which relies on a technology called long-term evolution, or LTE. AT&T plans to reach 300 million people in the U.S. with its LTE network by the end of 2014.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is selling airwaves to its biggest competitor after forging a separate spectrum deal with cable companies. Verizon won regulatory approval last year for a $3.6 billion acquisition of unused airwaves from Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. and other cable providers.

Verizon said last April that it would sell other spectrum if regulators allowed the company to complete the cable deal. Advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge and Free Press had opposed the cable transaction, saying it wouldn’t promote competition in the telecommunications industry.

Buying Spree

AT&T, led by Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, has been snapping up airwaves in a bid to catch up with Verizon, which has a more extensive LTE network. The carrier signed more than 50 spectrum deals last year and plans to do more in 2013, Stephenson said yesterday on an earnings conference call. Today’s transaction follows AT&T’s agreement earlier this week to buy spectrum and subscribers from Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. for $780 million in cash.

AT&T shares rose 0.6 percent to $33.94 at 11:01 a.m. in New York. The stock climbed 11 percent in 2012, marking its third straight year of gains.

Verizon Wireless began selling the 700-megahertz spectrum licenses early last year, the Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based company said today on its website. In addition to AT&T, Grain Management, a Sarasota, Florida-based private-equity firm, is buying some of the airwaves for $189 million.

“We had many bids for licenses and combinations of licenses, but we only disclose winning bidders when we have signed a definitive purchase agreement,” said Torod Neptune, a Verizon spokesman.

One of the goals of the process was to improve wireless coverage for rural Americans, Verizon said. Stephens Inc. and Loop Capital Markets LLC advised the company on the sale.

The transaction needs to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, Verizon said.

(Bloomberg contributed to this report.)