updated 03:00 pm EST, Wed December 10, 2008
Verizon Alltel Clears FTC
The US Federal Trade Commission today approved Verizon's buyout of Alltel and put the resulting company at the top of the US cellular market. The ratification follows earlier clearance by the FCC and Justice Department and finds no antitrust concerns over monopoly status following earlier conditions that required Verizon trade off a small portion of its cellular network to smaller carriers. Verizon hasn't said when it expects to formally roll Alltel into its lineup.
Worth $5.9 billion plus an assumption of about $22.2 billion of Alltel's debt, the expansion gives Verizon about 13.7 million new customers as of this fall and lifts the combined total to about 84.5 million cellphone users, giving the company a significant lead over previous top-ranking carrier AT&T's 74.9 million. The shift gives CDMA phone networks a temporary lead over GSM in the US before the switch to 4G puts most American carriers on the same network standard and potentially heightens competition.
Verizon's expansion has been characterized by the company as mutually beneficial, giving both existing Verizon and Alltel users larger overall coverage areas and reducing the expenses of roaming outside of a caller's home zone. Critics have objected to the buyout as a return to the near-monopoly state of the early 1980s, which necessitated the breakup of then-dominant AT&T.