Verizon acquires Unicel

Posted Aug. 22, 2008, at 11:37 p.m.

Verizon Wireless has purchased the parent company of Unicel, officials of both cellular telephone companies said Friday.

“The sale closed Aug. 6,” Barb Ostrander of Unicel’s marketing department in Alexandria, Minn., said Friday.

Unicel has 1,100 employees nationwide who have received employment offers and have accepted them, Ostrander said. She said the companies began working on the sale more than a year ago.

A joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone, Verizon Wireless announced Aug. 7 that it had completed its purchase of Rural Cellular Corp., doing business as Unicel, for $2.66 billion in cash and assumed debt.

The purchase will increase Verizon Wireless’ licensed coverage area by 4.7 million people and will add licenses covering markets in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, Verizon Wireless said in a press release.

“What will happen, going forward, is that Verizon Wireless will build out the network to serve the Unicel customers in Maine,” Robin Nicol of the Verizon Wireless office in Basking Ridge, N.J., said in a telephone interview.

Nicol said the sale has nothing to do with Verizon’s landline telephone service, only wireless. Verizon recently sold its landline service for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to Fair Point Communications.

“Wherever Unicel has customers now, that’s where Verizon Wireless will be having customers,” Nicol said.

Verizon Wireless began Aug. 7 serving customers in Unicel markets that are being merged with its operations and will continue to use the Unicel name for the next several months as it works to integrate networks.

Customers in markets to be integrated are receiving letters informing them about the recently completed purchase.

The Camden Select Board recently received the announcement and plans to discuss the merger at its meeting Tuesday night.

Also, before the network conversion in an area is complete, customers will receive a letter from Verizon Wireless explaining the service transition. Customers who will require a new handset due to network enhancements will receive information about handset options, which will include a variety of free and low-cost devices. Customers do not need to take any action at this time.

During the network conversion period, nearly every Unicel-branded store will remain open to serve customers, the company said. Unicel will be re-branded as Verizon Wireless in phases when customers are transitioned to the Verizon Wireless network and billing conversions are completed, beginning early in 2009 and continuing through mid-year.

The completion of the Rural Cellular purchase required approvals by the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.

Verizon Wireless expects to realize approximately $1 billion in reduced roaming and operations expenses, the company said.

Verizon Wireless announced its agreement to acquire Rural Cellular in July 2007, pending regulatory approval. The FCC approved the transaction earlier this month.

For more information, go to www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.

gchappell@bangordailynews.net

236-4598

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