By Chris Velazco
As Verizon's (VZ) brass is busy discussing the company's recent earnings release, AT&T (T) and the little-known Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. (ATNI) have just gone and stolen some of their thunder. The two companies just announced that they have inked a deal that will see AT&T acquire ATNI's rural Alltel wireless business for a grand total of $780 million.
And what exactly will AT&T be getting in exchange for all the money? According to the release, the shopping list includes "wireless properties, including licenses, network assets, retail stores and approximately 585,000 subscribers." Those of you hoping for improved LTE coverage in Manhattan will likely be disappointed by the results of this acquisition -- Alltel currently only operates in Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina, so there's little reason for anyone outside of those states to celebrate.
The situation may be a little confusing to those that have been following the growth and decline of wireless carriers in the U.S. (it's surprisingly riveting stuff), especially because of how Alltel has already been picked apart by another major telco in recent years. Alltel provided wireless access for 34 states before Verizon swooped in and acquired the regional carrier for $28.1 billion back in 2008. Curiously, Verizon effectively had to ditch 105 Alltel's service markets as part of that deal, prompting rival AT&T to make a move of its own and snap up 79 of them. The remaining 26 were acquired by Atlantic Tele-Network, which has been keeping the service alive under the Alltel name and will continue to do so until the FCC gives this transaction its blessing (expected to happen sometime later this year).