FCC's OK of Alltel takeover makes Verizon the largest US carrier

Before sealing a $28.1B deal to buy Alltel Communications on Tuesday, Verizon needed to make concessions to both the FCC and Justice Department so as to allay the competitive concerns of other wireless providers.

Verizon is now the largest wireless carrier in the US, following hard won approval by the federal government on Tuesday of its controversial merger with Alltel.

The $28.1 billion deal will add substantially to the already huge holdings of Verizon Wireless, Verizon Communications' joint venture with Vodafone.

As previously reported in BetaNews, Verizon Wireless managed to ink 1.5 million new customers from July through September of this year alone, despite the addition of another 2 million subscribers by its arch-rival AT&T during the same time frame.

Due to the magnitude of the combined interests in the merger, Verizon had to meet antitrust concerns coming from multiple directions before sealing its deal in a vote by the FCC on Tuesday.

The US Justice Department last week gave its own green light to Verizon's buyout of Alltel, after the attorney generals of five states filed a suit against both companies on October 30 in US District Court for the District of Columbia.

In a settlement, Verizon agreed to divest itself of Alltel-owned assets in 100 cellular markets in 22 states, in order to open those markets up to competition from other carriers.

The FCC then required Verizon Wireless to honor Alltel's existing roaming agreements for four years, so as to assure mid-sized, small and rural wireless providers that adequate CDMA roaming coverage will continue despite the merger.

In a day with a very busy docket, the FCC also voted in favor of allowing a $14.5 billion Sprint-Nextel/Clearwire merger around WiMAX, and approved the opening of public access to the "white spaces" of the wireless spectrum.

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