Wednesday, May 27, 2009

AT&T will take on Altell lines

REGIONAL-Alltel customers in N’West Iowa may be facing yet another change by the end of this year.

AT&T Wireless has announced an agreement to expand its coverage territory as part of a $2.35 billion deal to acquire assets from rival Verizon Wireless.

When Verizon purchased Alltel in a $5.9 billion agreement last year, part of the arrangement required Verizon to divest its Alltel properties in areas where Verizon already had a presence.

“It was all to promote competition,” said Kerry Hibbs, AT&T Western Region public affairs representative. “It would not have been fair for Verizon to have its traditional facilities and then take over Alltel as well. That would basically just leave Verizon.”

For the deal to be completed, Verizon had to auction off its assets in 79 service areas across 18 states, representing 1.5 million subscribers.

Dallas-based AT&T, the country’s largest telecommunications company, was the high bidder.

O’Brien, Osceola, Lyon and Sioux counties all fall within the realm of the agreement, but Hibbs said Alltel customers in N’West Iowa do not need to do anything yet.

“We hope to get the regulatory approvals by the end of 2009,” he said. “Once that happens, Alltel customers will become AT&T customers, unless, of course, they chose to go with another cell-phone provider. That’s their choice, but if they want to, they could come to AT&T. That would be great for us and for them.”

The AT&T deal is contingent on regulatory approval and likely will close during the fourth quarter of 2009. AT&T then will need to invest about $400 million more in converting from Verizon’s Code Division Multiple Access network to its Global System for Mobile communication technology.

As a result, Alltel customers eventually will need to purchase a new cell phone since AT&T’s GSM phones are not compatible with Alltel’s CDMA phones.

“Of course, we think we have the best network,” Hibbs said. “We carry the iPhone and are the only cell-phone company that offers rollover minutes, so I think we will benefit a lot of customers.”

The cellular service switchover is not the first for many area Alltel customers. Alltel purchased Midwest Wireless of Mankato, MN, as part of a $1 billion transaction that went into effect in July 2007.

This article appeared in the May 16, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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