Verizon to buy Alltel for $5.9B

Verizon Wireless' deal to buy Alltel Corp. for $5.9-billion was applauded by investors and should mean a greater range of choices for Alltel subscribers, but some worried that Alltel's pledge to rural coverage will get lost.

Alltel's wide-ranging rural coverage in 35 states has given it 13.2-million subscribers and plenty of fans. In its area, mainly in the interior of the country and in the Southeast, it provides an alternative to the four big national carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA.

Verizon Wireless employs more than 2,000 people in Florida, including about 1,200 in its customer service center on W Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. Chuck Hamby of Verizon Wireless said it is too early to say how the deal might affect staffing.

Having the No. 2 carrier, Verizon Wireless, swallow the No. 5 carrier, Alltel, would catapult it beyond 80-million subscribers and past AT&T Inc. to become the largest carrier in the country. It could also reduce competition in areas where Verizon Wireless and Alltel overlap.

The deal would also mean that Verizon, along with AT&T, will pull further away from the competition. No. 3 Sprint is in financial disarray and is losing subscribers. T-Mobile USA is a distant fourth.

"Anything that makes Verizon … bigger will draw regulatory attention," said Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus.

Alltel CEO Scott Ford said customers will not see their rates or plans immediately change.

Alltel subscribers would reap some tangible benefits from the deal, like a wider range of handsets available through Verizon Wireless.

Times staff writer Asjylyn Loder contributed to this report.

Verizon to buy Alltel for $5.9B 06/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2008 9:51am]

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