Following last week’s approval the Department of Justice, Federal regulators have approved the $28.1 billion merger of Verizon Wireless (VZ) with wireless carrier Alltel (AT) that was announced in June. The combination of both companies creates the nation’s largest wireless carrier with nearly 84 million subscribers, toppling AT&T’s (T) 74.8 million-subscriber base. The merger represents a strategically powerful collection of assets in the communications industry, which despite economic conditions, continues to remain an exciting growth market.
According to AP – the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] decided Tuesday to allow Verizon Wireless to move ahead with the merger. There were two partial dissents by the two Democrats on the five-member panel. The FCC attached several conditions to the approval, including a requirement that Verizon continue to honor Alltel’s existing roaming agreements for four years. Verizon’s $28.1 billion acquisition represents the purchase of $5.9 billion in Alltel’s equity, while assuming $22.2 billion of Alltel’s debt.
On Tuesday, the FCC also approved the merger between Sprint-Nextel (S) and Clearwire (CLWR), thus permitting the creation of a nationwide WiMax network. The decision opens up the wireless communications market which will allow independent devices to operate in unused electromagnetic spectrum between digital TV channels. In a deal announced in early May, Sprint agreed to take over the combined WiMax operations of Clearwire, a joint venture that has the support of the biggest tech co.’s including Comcast (CMCSA), Google (GOOG), and Intel (INTC).
Update: Larry Page, co-founder and president of Google commented today on the Google blog about FCC’s approval of the white spaces. He said:
“By a vote of 5-0, the FCC formally agreed to open up the “white spaces” spectrum — the unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels — for wireless broadband service for the public. This is a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications…Google has worked hard on this matter with other tech companies and public interest groups because we think that this spectrum will help put better and faster Internet connections in the hands of the public….We will soon have “Wi-Fi on steroids,” since these spectrum signals have much longer range than today’s Wi-Fi technology and broadband access can be spread using fewer base stations resulting in better coverage at lower cost”.