By now the FCC approval for AT&T to acquire the remaining "old" Alltel properties is well-known among the wireless community...that is unless you've been standing in line at the Apple store for the last 2 days. I'm not going to re-hash the good & bad points about the deal, but I am going to point out a few details we discovered.
In the FCC approval documents, AT&T stated that they will continue to offer CDMA roaming, "...as long as AT&T provides CDMA retail or roaming services at that cell site." and "...nothing in this commitment shall be construed to restrict AT&T from terminating CDMA services at any cell site to all CDMA carriers at any time...under its roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless..." Since Verizon is selling the affected Alltel properties because they already have service in the area, and there's no mention of other carriers, it seems if Verizon says, "OK", AT&T can turn off CDMA and leave the other CDMA carriers with only one choice: to roam on Verizon.
Otherwise, there are no real surpises in the final documents. The approval did force us to change Our Reviews for AT&T and Alltel for all 50 states as well as our General Observations for about half of those. Whew! AT&T is already snatching customers from the Alltel web site who enter a Zip Code for the newly-acquired areas.
If you live in one of the areas acquired by ATN, it's Alltel business as usual. However, the "new" Alltel is now down to its fighting weight and no longer has the power of a company with millions of customers. There may be a fewer things, like fewer phones, or fewer stores.
Some of the transition to AT&T GSM can happen rather quickly as most of Alltel's western sites already offer GSM coverage, but it should improve greatly under AT&T. We could also expect Verizon to start disconnecting any Alltel GSM equipment as soon as roaming agreements allow, and AT&T doesn't have coverage in much of those new areas. It could be interesting, if not traumatic, to watch coverage disappear in so many areas so fast. It looks like the customers of Sprint, T-Mobile and a bunch of other carriers, including AT&T, may be in for a few surprises. I would hope it'll be later rather than sooner, some roaming agreements continue for several years.
Does this mean higher roaming charges for these other carriers, and thus higher charges for you and me? AT&T and Verizon Wireless wouldn't let that happen...would they?