Alltel US customers worry about Verizon deal

Verizon Wireless' deal to buy Alltel for €3.7 billion (US$5.9 billion) was applauded by investors and should mean a greater range of choices for Alltel subscribers, but some worried that Alltel's commitment to rural coverage will get lost, an Associated Press report said.

The report quoted several customers expressing worry over the deal.

Dan Yahro in Bishop, Calif., close to the border with Nevada, has two options for wireless service: Alltel and Verizon Wireless. Now that one is buying the other, he wonders what will happen.

'Alltel has twice the coverage of Verizon here. When you get into Death Valley National Park, which is where I spend a lot of time, Alltel is the only game out there,' Yahro said.

Alltel's wide-ranging rural coverage in 35 states has given it 13.2 million subscribers and plenty of fans. In its area, mainly in the interior of the country and in the Southeast, it provides an alternative to the four big national carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile USA.

John Wilfong, 29, of Alexander, Ark., said he had service on his Alltel phone everywhere when he worked as a deliveryman.

'When I used to go into a lot of fringe areas, it got a better signal,' Wilfong said. 'When I was living at home before I got married, my dad had Cingular and he couldn't get a signal in the house, but I could.'

Having the No. 2 carrier, Verizon Wireless, swallow the No. 5 carrier, Alltel, would catapult it beyond 80 million subscribers and past AT&T to become the largest carrier in the country. It could also reduce competition in areas where Verizon Wireless and Alltel overlap.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the agency 'would be interested in looking at the proposed transaction.'