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AT&T acquisition to beef up 3G coverage in rural US

post #1 of 43
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AT&T on Friday confirmed plans to acquire wireless properties from rival Verizon in a bid to strengthen coverage of its 3G network in rural areas of the US stretching across some 18 states.

The deal for $2.35 billion in cash will see the exclusive US iPhone carrier take control of 18 of the 24 markets that Verizon is divesting as part of its recent acquisition of Alltel Wireless, which helped the telecommunications firm snatch the title of the largest US wireless carrier away from AT&T.

More specifically, Friday's agreement will see AT&T acquire wireless properties, including licenses, network assets and 1.5 million current subscribers in 79 service areas, primarily in rural areas of Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

"Wireless continues to be AT&Ts greatest growth driver, and this transaction will complement our existing network coverage, particularly in rural areas," said AT&T chief executive Ralph de la Vega. "The acquisition will add network assets, distribution channels and 850 MHz spectrum in a significant portion of the U.S., enabling even better coverage for AT&Ts subscribers in those areas."

Converting those markets from Verizons CDMA network to GSM technology and transitioning operations to AT&T is expected to take about 12 months and cost about $400 million. Once the transition is complete, subscribers in those areas will be able to take advantage of AT&T's 3G network and supporting devices like the iPhone and BlackBerry Bold.

AT&T told investors the deal is expected to deliver substantial long-term stockholder value. It's the latest move on the part of the Dallas-based company to build out its mobile data services, which represent its key area of growth. In 2008, AT&T pumped more than $15 billion into building out its wireless network.
post #2 of 43
Can you here me NOW?
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post #3 of 43
Good, AT&T needs to beef up their rural areas.

Q: Are the tower placements for CDMA (I assume these were the previous AMPS towers) also ideal for GSM on the 850MHz spectrum?

Q: How will they transition the Alltel users from CDMA to GSM? Have both technologies running at the same time for certain duration and then offer the stragglers a cheap GSM phone when they plan to cut off the CDMA? How did they do it last year when switching out all the AMPS for CDMA?
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post #4 of 43
to complain, than to be the champion, eh, Verison?

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post #5 of 43
Too bad they aren't touching upstate NY. AT&T's coverage around here sucks rocks!!!!
post #6 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by ivan.rnn01 View Post

to complain, than to be the champion, eh, Verison?

If that was a joke, I don't get it. This is not a surprise, nor is it bad news for Verizon. Verizon knew all along that it would have to divest some assets as a condition of gaining approval for its deal to acquire Alltel.

(source)
post #7 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Good, AT&T needs to beef up their rural areas.

Q: Are the tower placements for CDMA (I assume these were the previous AMPS towers) also ideal for GSM on the 850MHz spectrum?

Q: How will they transition the Alltel users from CDMA to GSM? Have both technologies running at the same time for certain duration and then offer the stragglers a cheap GSM phone when they plan to cut off the CDMA? How did they do it last year when switching out all the AMPS for CDMA?

UMTS uses wider channels than CDMA and asynch tech over 5 MHz channel. CDMA uses synch tech over 1.25 MHz... and most of the data will go over a separate EVDO channel. This will be a "truckload" upgrade. Power control will be the key so that hand-offs go smooth and the handset power control is not boosted to hi and drain the batteries.

The good part is that 850 MHz has good wave propagation characteristics and that may help.
post #8 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by lfmorrison View Post

If that was a joke, I don't get it. This is not a surprise, nor is it bad news for Verizon. Verizon knew all along that it would have to divest some assets as a condition of gaining approval for its deal to acquire Alltel.

(source)

That's probably not a surprise for them. But I wouldn't say, they want it that badly. Let's call it a compromise.

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post #9 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by ivan.rnn01 View Post

That's probably not a surprise for them. But I wouldn't say, they want it that badly. Let's call it a compromise.

Verizon loses a net of 1.3M subscribers while AT&T nets 1.3M subs. Verizon isn't so far ahead of AT&T in that regard to want to lose 10% of the subscriber base of the Alltel buyout. Verizon still has more coverage than AT&T, but even that will be dwindling as AT&T builds out in Alltel's more rural areas with 3G. I don't think Verizon wanted to do it at all.
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post #10 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Verizon loses a net of 1.3M subscribers while AT&T nets 1.3M subs. Verizon isn't so far ahead of AT&T in that regard to want to lose 10% of the subscriber base of the Alltel buyout. Verizon still has more coverage than AT&T, but even that will be dwindling as AT&T builds out in Alltel's more rural areas with 3G. I don't think Verizon wanted to do it at all.

They're losing customers? Even with a badass phone like the storm!? </sarcasm>

I remember when switching from tmobile and looking for a new provider, everyone insisted I get Verizon. Where I live (Virginia) I have yet to find a place where my friends don't have great service with Verizon. I guess that will change? It seems to me that neither customer support or phone selection have been Verizon's key selling point. They'll just have to improve on those two things now I guess.
post #11 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

distribution channels and 850 MHz spectrum in a significant portion of the U.S., enabling even better coverage for AT&Ts subscribers in those areas."

And maybe improved signal quality too since 850 MHz should penetrate into buildings better than 1900 or 2100

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post #12 of 43
Too bad NY and PA aren't on the list. When I visit rural parts of those states I'm always climbing hills looking for the barest flicker of Edge coverage. (Specifically: southwest NY and northeast PA.)
post #13 of 43
verizon had no choice in the matter per regulatory conditions of the alltel acquisition. verizon knew they had to sell the maller alltel markets to get the bigger alltel markets - this is not some sort of shock or surprise or move of desperation by verizon. verizon picked up 12.9 million alltel customers and KNEW they had to give up 2.1 million of them. this is more a formality than verizon "losing" anything and it looks like a nice, smaller pickup for at&t.

verizon news release - http://news.vzw.com/news/2009/01/pr2009-01-09.html

news article about the merger approval - http://tiny.pl/z8lf

full fcc timeline - http://www.fcc.gov/transaction/alltel-verizon.html
post #14 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Verizon loses a net of 1.3M subscribers while AT&T nets 1.3M subs. Verizon isn't so far ahead of AT&T in that regard to want to lose 10% of the subscriber base of the Alltel buyout. Verizon still has more coverage than AT&T, but even that will be dwindling as AT&T builds out in Alltel's more rural areas with 3G. I don't think Verizon wanted to do it at all.

One should tease the Department of Justice even less than Google. For Verison it's not a challenge. It's cataclysm.

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post #15 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by iStink View Post

They're losing customers? Even with a badass phone like the storm!? </sarcasm>

I know you were be sarcastic (you even gave a sarcasm tag) but I know some on this forum will read my post out of context so i'll clarify...

Verizon and AT&T are both adding plenty of customers each quarter, mostly coming from Sprint and if not for the iPhone AT&T wouldn't be doing nearly as well. However, the Alltel deal puts about 1.4M customers from Verizon into AT&T's pocket while it gives about 120k customers to Verizon from AT&T. This is a net subscriber change of about 1.3M in for AT&T and away from Verizon.

Quote:
I remember when switching from tmobile and looking for a new provider, everyone insisted I get Verizon. Where I live (Virginia) I have yet to find a place where my friends don't have great service with Verizon. I guess that will change? It seems to me that neither customer support or phone selection have been Verizon's key selling point. They'll just have to improve on those two things now I guess.

I dislike all cell company practices. I think the rising cost of an SMS is outrageous for 160 character max, especially when I pay $30 for unlimited data. I could go on, but I won't. However, Verizon's nickel and diming seems to be an extreme for a US carrier which I don't care for but they do have the best coverage overall, but I can't say that I'm in many places where AT&T isn't decent to exceptional. I've noticed 3G speed increases, 3G additions in small towns and cities where I know EDGE was the only option until recently, and have only had no service in one rural area once in my 2 years being back with AT&T/Cingular.

Of course, if you live in an area with poor AT&T coverage and good Verizon coverage it's pretty obvious that the iPhone isn't an ideal device. I would expect that NYC will be 850MHz by this summer with more bandwidth. I'm sure we'll find out this summer after the launch of the new iPhone.

Customer service-wise, the iPhone is tops as Apple has it's own US-based call center for tech support. I think this was one of the things Verizon wouldn't agree to.
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post #16 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

Too bad NY and PA aren't on the list. When I visit rural parts of those states I'm always climbing hills looking for the barest flicker of Edge coverage. (Specifically: southwest NY and northeast PA.)

I was in some towns outside the Adirondack last month. The coverage was existant but I had slow* EDGE and GPRS. Though NYC was surprisingly solid 3G.

* Slow even for EDGE
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post #17 of 43
How about they fix their reception in metro areas.
post #18 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

How about they fix their reception in metro areas.

As we've been discussing, AT&T is moving to 850MHz.
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post #19 of 43
Why isn't NC on the list?!

BJ
post #20 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Verizon and AT&T are both adding plenty of customers each quarter, mostly coming from Sprint and if not for the iPhone AT&T wouldn't be doing nearly as well. However, the Alltel deal puts about 1.4M customers from Verizon into AT&T's pocket while it gives about 120k customers to Verizon from AT&T. This is a net subscriber change of about 1.3M in for AT&T and away from Verizon.

Not really. You are looking at it as if this were an independent deal, when it's not. It's just a small part of the overall deal of Verizon buying Alltel. Verizon buys Alltel, but the Feds set the condition that they need to divest those regions were Verizon and Alltel were the only major players (because it would give Verizon a monopoly position in those regions with no competition). So Verizon sells a small part of their acquisition to AT&T, and a few other regional carriers.

So in the grand scheme of things, Verizon is getting about 90% of Alltel's customers and AT&T is getting about 10% of them. I wouldn't call that a net subscriber loss for Verizon because if they hadn't purchased Alltel and gained that 90%, they wouldn't be "losing" any subscribers to AT&T because of this sub-bullet to the Alltel acquisition.
post #21 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

Not really. You are looking at it as if this were an independent deal, when it's not. It's just a small part of the overall deal of Verizon buying Alltel. Verizon buys Alltel, but the Feds set the condition that they need to divest those regions were Verizon and Alltel were the only major players (because it would give Verizon a monopoly position in those regions with no competition). So Verizon sells a small part of their acquisition to AT&T, and a few other regional carriers.

So in the grand scheme of things, Verizon is getting about 90% of Alltel's customers and AT&T is getting about 10% of them. I wouldn't call that a net subscriber loss for Verizon because if they hadn't purchased Alltel and gained that 90%, they wouldn't be "losing" any subscribers to AT&T because of this sub-bullet to the Alltel acquisition.

You're correct and I mentioned that in a later posting.
Quote:
Verizon isn't so far ahead of AT&T in that regard to want to lose 10% of the subscriber base of the Alltel buyout.

The numbers for Verizon's subscriber base already include the ~14.5M Alltel subs, so that is why I stated it that way.

PS: How many real additions did Verizon and AT&T each get last quarter?
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post #22 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by BJWanlund View Post

Why isn't NC on the list?!

BJ

Is NC on anyone's list?

(Sorry. I just couldn't let that one pass.)
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post #23 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

Too bad NY and PA aren't on the list. When I visit rural parts of those states I'm always climbing hills looking for the barest flicker of Edge coverage. (Specifically: southwest NY and northeast PA.)

I with ya brother! AT&T coverage can sometimes be non-existent in certain parts, or very spotty at best.
post #24 of 43
Living in SE Iowa, I might as well live on the moon!

About the time my current Verizon account is up, things should be going great with the new coverage!

I bought an iPod Touch, because there's basically no 3G from AT & T here in SE Iowa.
post #25 of 43
I've had Verizon service for 7 years and been EXTREMELY pleased with both the coverage and the service. I am in rural Arizona and really hope I'm not forced over to AT&T. I hate AT&T. I have a plan I love and a phone I love as well and do not want to be forced by the government to change. I hate government control too. Guess I'm in a hateful mood today
post #26 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunsNut View Post

I've had Verizon service for 7 years and been EXTREMELY pleased with both the coverage and the service. I am in rural Arizona and really hope I'm not forced over to AT&T. I hate AT&T. I have a plan I love and a phone I love as well and do not want to be forced by the government to change. I hate government control too. Guess I'm in a hateful mood today

Why do think you'd be forced to move from Verizon to AT&T? If you weren't on Alltel before I think you have nothing to fear.
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post #27 of 43
I am glad to hear we might get better coverage in Northern Arizona from AT&T for my iPhone.. Some areas are very spotty and now maybe I have a chance to get calls and finally drop my extra Verizon phone. I won't be doing that anytime soon though until we soon what areas will get coverage. In the last year AT&T customer service has blown Verizon's away for me.
post #28 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Why do think you'd be forced to move from Verizon to AT&T? If you weren't on Alltel before I think you have nothing to fear.

Well, I hope I'm wrong, but the way I read it is that any Verizon territory that had Verizon AND Alltel in the same rural area was going to have to move to AT&T. We are in one of those areas where both existed together before Verizon bought Alltel. Those are the areas that Verizon agreed to move out of and AT&T won a bid for those territories. Since AT&T uses a totally different phone protocol the phones would have to change. Hence the same reason no one can make an iPhone work on the Verizon system now.


Got rid of Alltel when I moved to Verizon and do not want to switch. You've stated exactly what I was hoping to hear. BTW, I just love your signature line. I've always said once you try Mac you'll never go back.
post #29 of 43
I had a company Verizon phone and my iPhone and I'll tell you what....I never felt Verizon had better service. In Northern WV my Verizon phone was worthless. I had 5 Bars on my iPhone there too.

I also love my roll-over minutes which is only given to me from att.
post #30 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Q: Are the tower placements for CDMA (I assume these were the previous AMPS towers) also ideal for GSM on the 850MHz spectrum?

Doubtful. GSM has a 35 km limit, while CDMA doesn't, so any towers that were spaced more than 35 km apart and worked fine under CDMA are going to work not so well with GSM.

It would, of course, work just fine with UMTS (3G), since that is CDMA-based, but if you think AT&T will put any 3G in rural areas, then all I have to say is

Alltel, of course, did bring 3G in a lot of those rural areas via EV-DO. I'm sure AT&T will switch that off as soon as they can get everyone transitioned over to crusty old GSM with EDGE.
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post #31 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post

It would, of course, work just fine with UMTS (3G), since that is CDMA-based, but if you think AT&T will put any 3G in rural areas, then all I have to say is

1) Before you get attacked I'll back you up first, in saying that the first 3GPP version 99 UMTS air interface was incorporated from the CDMA air interface according to some sites.

2) I can't imagine AT&T taking this investment and not putting in at least the most basic HSDPA tech in most places, especially if their a tower spacing issue and they are planning for the long term. The US is growing and with less reason to be situated in a city due to global communications I'd be shocked if most small towns that these Alltel towers are won't get 3G.
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post #32 of 43
My house is 5 miles north of the University of Iowa - a Big Ten campus and major medical center. There is ZERO AT&T signal here. AT&T has a spotty signal along I-80 - with nothing anywhere else.

I'd buy an iPhone in a heartbeat - if i could get it to work. Instead, I have an iPod touch and a Verizon cell phone - like 99% of the people around me.

How else do I say "frustrated?"
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post #33 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigPhotos View Post

My house is 5 miles north of the University of Iowa - a Big Ten campus and major medical center. There is ZERO AT&T signal here. AT&T has a spotty signal along I-80 - with nothing anywhere else.

I'd buy an iPhone in a heartbeat - if i could get it to work. Instead, I have an iPod touch and a Verizon cell phone - like 99% of the people around me.

How else do I say "frustrated?"

AT&T has good 3G coverage all over Davenport, Cedar Rapids and in your area of Des Moines. They also have good coverage along I-80, which 2 of those cities it runs through. I'm sure there are gaps in certain areas but I have never had a problem with basic coverage, only with a lack of 3G in less populated areas. I'm using my AT&T 3G right now in Davenport just off I-80 with 137ms ping latency, 1.83Mbps down and 0.81Mbps up. To reiterate, I am not stating that your area has AT&T coverage, it may very well be a dead zone.
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post #34 of 43
Anyone seen any coverage maps of the affected areas? I live in southern Iowa and would love to get an iPhone. I have US Cellular now and love the service, but hate the phones. They're all the same: only does half the things you want it to do and none of the things an iPhone can do.
post #35 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by dukemeiser View Post

Anyone seen any coverage maps of the affected areas? I live in southern Iowa and would love to get an iPhone. I have US Cellular now and love the service, but hate the phones. They're all the same: only does half the things you want it to do and none of the things an iPhone can do.

You can check out AT&T's map, but you have to get in pretty close to see anything relevant and even then it could easily be wrong.
http://www.wireless.att.com/coverageviewer/popUp_3g.jsp
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post #36 of 43
Driving in the last two weeks through North Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa, my wife and I found 3G coverage for our iPhones to be pretty much confined to Amarillo, Santa Fe, Denver, Omaha, Des Moines and the Quad Cities. EDGE was pretty spotty, even along Interstates 40, 76 and 80. By and large, I'd say the ATT wireless coverage map tends to be optimistic. Technically the boundaries for EDGE and 3G are reasonably accurate, but the signal strength in many places leaves a lot to be desired. There are some surprises in some places, however. In the hamlet of Red River, NM, at 8,600 feet altitude buried in the mountains north of Taos, we got five bars on EDGE. But overall, if AT&T is lagging this badly in rolling out 3G, 4G deployment is likely to be no picnic. Don't get your hopes up if you're out in the sticks.

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post #37 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

1) Before you get attacked I'll back you up first, in saying that the first 3GPP version 99 UMTS air interface was incorporated from the CDMA air interface according to some sites.

UMTS uses WCDMA as its air interface, which stands for Wideband CDMA. This is a fact. If anyone would care to attack me for that, they are welcome to, but they will just come across as looking stupid since this is common knowledge and can easily be looked up on the GSM Association's web site or Wikipedia. WCDMA, as you might guess, is based on CDMA. Why wouldn't it be? CDMA is a far superior technology to the TDMA that legacy GSM uses.

Quote:
2) I can't imagine AT&T taking this investment and not putting in at least the most basic HSDPA tech in most places, especially if their a tower spacing issue and they are planning for the long term. The US is growing and with less reason to be situated in a city due to global communications I'd be shocked if most small towns that these Alltel towers are won't get 3G.

I wouldn't. WCDMA requires a really huge chunk of spectrum, and they'll already need to allocate some spectrum to GSM (for phones that don't have 3G) and CDMA (for legacy customers, as well as for roaming agreements that they're probably legally obligated to honor for a few years at least with smaller CDMA providers that currently roam on Alltel). This can make it hard to deploy. AT&T has had a ton of trouble just covering the more populated areas with 3G - I'd be severely surprised if they set it up in areas like the Dakotas and Montana.

AT&T's plans for the long term are more likely to involve LTE, which appropriately enough stands for "Long Term Evolution." That particular technology they probably will need to deploy across their network, and it'll be easier to do that if WCDMA isn't chewing up all the bandwidth.

I could be wrong, of course, and I'd be delighted if I am. But the cynic in me says that they'll put in plain old GSM/EDGE, which will have the horribly slow Internet speeds that everyone is familiar with, as well as much spottier coverage due to GSM's limitations.
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post #38 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by macxpress View Post

Too bad they aren't touching upstate NY. AT&T's coverage around here sucks rocks!!!!



It's not great in mid town Manhattan either! Half of the time I'm on Edge
Pun intended. What's strange is that when I visit friends in northern NJ, 3g is INCREDIBLY FAST rivaling wi-fi
You'd think it would be the other way around. AT+T needs to step it up. If you tell customers they can get 3g speeds then that's what they should get not 1.4g.
post #39 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigPhotos View Post

My house is 5 miles north of the University of Iowa - a Big Ten campus and major medical center. There is ZERO AT&T signal here. AT&T has a spotty signal along I-80 - with nothing anywhere else.

I'd buy an iPhone in a heartbeat - if i could get it to work. Instead, I have an iPod touch and a Verizon cell phone - like 99% of the people around me.

How else do I say "frustrated?"

Hi neighbor! From the description of where you live, we are probably right up the road or around the corner from your place. My wife and I both have iPhones, and we, too, find the AT&T signal very spotty. Davenport and Des Moines (which solipsism thinks is our area) may have good coverage, but Iowa City, half-way in between D & DM, seems to have less than good reception. I receive the internet very nicely in our home, which the iPhone picks up from our wireless network; however, phone calls are very spotty in or out of the house. Lets hope the situation improves soon.
post #40 of 43
Here's an article from the Great Falls Tribune, one of those areas where AT&T is buying Alltel. It's titled "AT&T acquisition would give Montanans more service, phone options" and the key points are:

"Once the sale is complete, AT&T will spend about a year upgrading cellular towers and other equipment and converting it to AT&T's GSM network. During that time, Alltel customers won't see any changes in their service, Hopkins said.

Once the upgrade is complete, Alltel customers will need to switch handsets because Alltel's phones won't be compatible with AT&T's network, Hopkins said. Since that process is still some time out, the details aren't finalized, but AT&T will communicate with customers as the change-over approaches."

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/art...+phone+options
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