FCC Approves AT&T's $780M Purchase of Alltel Assets

The Federal Communications Commission has approved AT&T's $780 million purchase of the Alltel assets operated by Allied Wireless Communications Corp. of Little Rock, a subsidiary Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. of Beverly, Mass.

AT&T announced the FCC's approval in a news release Friday. The deal was originally announced in January.

"AT&T will immediately begin upgrading the former Alltel network and plans to move customers to the AT&T network by midyear 2014," the company said in a news release.

The FCC placed conditions on the deal. To meet them, AT&T said it will launch 3G HSPA+ and 4G LTE services to Allied's coverage area within 15 and 18 months, respectively. It will provide roaming services for Allied's 3G EV-DO network at least until June 2015. And it said it will give existing Allied subscribers a phone comparable to their current device for free.

Allied Wireless was formed from divested Alltel assets after Alltel Corp. sold to Verizon for $28 billion in 2008. The deal gets AT&T more than 585,000 customers in rural areas of six states: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Ohio and Idaho. 

Atlantic Tele-Network said Allied generated about $350 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2012.

More: Download the complete FCC filing detailing the deal's approval and conditions (PDF).

Allied retained much of the old Alltel DNA, with its markets still using the Alltel brand. Its CEO has been Frank O'Mara, who was the executive vice president of marketing at Alltel Corp. O'Mara spent 13 years with the Little Rock telecom before it sold to Verizon.

In an email to Allied employees on Friday, O'Mara said the deal likely marks the end of the Alltel brand.

"While I would never bet against the Alltel brand, this looks like the final curtain call for the brand that so many of us believe is special," he said. "Many of these markets have been under the Alltel logo for over 25 years and now it is time to turn them over to AT&T. AT&T will expand on our offerings in a manner that we could not. Our Customers will have a great experience with AT&T."

It has been unclear what the purchase means for Allied's Little Rock employees. In May, employees received a letter from AT&T that said AT&T wasn't planning any terminations "due to workforce adjustments or surplus" for the remainder of 2013.

The company said that after the sale closes, the "vast majority" of Alltel workers will "continue to perform the same jobs you are performing today and will transition into an AT&T title with the comparable AT&T management job classification."

Allied is headquarted at 1001 Technology Drive in west Little Rock.

Stephens Inc. of Little Rock advised Altantic Tele-Network on the sale.

Arkansas Business will update this story.