Verizon Wireless will be required to sell Alltel Corp.'s mobile phone operations in Pinal and Gila counties as part of the merger of the two companies.
Verizon said the divestiture is required by federal regulators to maintain wireless telephone competition in those two counties. But the merger of the two systems will proceed in other Arizona counties, including Maricopa, said Verizon spokeswoman Jenny Weaver.
Verizon Wireless, based in Basking Ridge, N.J., purchased Little Rock, Ark.-based Alltel for $5.9 billion. The deal was completed today.
Verizon said it plans to retain all Alltel employees below the executive level as it assesses staffing needs under the new arrangement.
As a condition of the purchase, regulators are forcing Verizon to sell 105 overlapping markets in 24 states, including Gila and Pinal counties in Arizona. Most of the properties to be sold are from the Alltel side of the business.
Verizon will add 12.9 million Alltel customers after the divestitures, bringing its total to nearly 83.7 million customers and making it the largest wireless phone company in the nation.
Verizon said it has placed licenses and assets for the markets to be divested in a management trust, which will continue to operate the markets under their current brands until they are sold to one or more buyers. As a result, those markets will not be integrated, the company said.
In regions to be combined, the Alltel brand will continue to be used for the next few months, and Alltel customers do not need to take any immediate actions, Verizon officials said.
Those customers will receive a letter in the next few weeks informing them about the transition, the company said. Alltel customers' current service plans, prices and features will remain the same through the transition.
Most customers will be able to retain their current handsets because the Verizon and Alltel networks use the same technology, the company said.
Verizon said it will re-brand Alltel operations to the Verizon brand in phases, beginning in the second quarter and continuing through the third quarter.
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone, has a major presence in the East Valley, operating a call center and regional headquarters in Chandler.
"We will continue to have a big presence here," Weaver said.
Alltel operates a customer service center in Ahwatukee Foothills that is supporting the management trust operations. The future of that location will be determined when the divestitures are completed, she said.
She said the merger will provide "great synergies that will allow us to grow and deliver advanced broadband services to millions more customers."
Verizon announced in June that it would buy Alltel, and the U.S. Justice Department approved the deal in October, subject to the divestitures. The Federal Communications Commission approved the merger in November.