Verizon Wireless has finally completed its $28.1 billion acquisition of regional wireless carrier Alltel.
Verizon announced its plan to buy Alltel in June for $5.9 billion in equity, and it assumed about $22.2 billion in Alltel's debt. The deal was struck only seven months after Alltel was bought out by TPG Capital, a unit of Goldman Sachs Group, for $27.5 billion.
The deal now makes Verizon the largest wireless carrier in the United States, with more than 83.7 million customers. AT&T, which had held that title, had 74.9 million wireless customers as of September 30.
Most of Verizon's new customers are in the Midwest and South, where Alltel operates.
In order to receive approval from regulators, Verizon Wireless agreed to sell operations in 105 markets where Alltel also operates. As a result, Alltel customers in those areas will not be part of the merger with Verizon Wireless.
Alltel customers who are part of the merger will receive letters informing them that their service will change to Verizon Wireless, the company said in an FAQ on its Web site.
Verizon and Alltel both use the cellular technology CDMA. And both companies have built 3G wireless networks using a technology called EV-DO. But it will take months before the companies can integrate their network operations and billing systems.
This means that during the transition, Verizon customers will not be able to receive service at Alltel stores, and vice versa. Alltel customers are also not yet a part of Verizon's in-calling plans. But once the integration is complete, that will change.
And at least for the time being, Alltel customers will not be offered handsets for which Verizon Wireless is the exclusive carrier, including Research In Motion's BlackBerry Storm.
And it's not yet clear when or if deals such as Alltel's My Circle, which allows for unlimited calling between people in a preselected group, will continue. For now, My Circle will be available to Alltel customers while they are on Alltel's pricing plan. Verizon is considering whether to create a similar plan for new and existing Verizon Wireless customers.