bell atlantic wireless
In January, it was announced that Alltel would acquire the current owner of the Cellular One brand - Western Wireless. These acquisition plans were approved by the FCC and the Department of Justice. Alltel intends to divest some Western Wireless business units, infrastructure, customers and spectrum in sixteen of its rural markets in the western United States.
Cellular One brand is going to be dissociated and all existing Western Wireless are going to be changed into the Alltel markets. It will lead to a significant decrease in the Cellular One footprint. Cellular One is the leading operator in the western United States and its brand is used by twenty carriers in thirty states, while Western Wireless was the largest operator that used its brand throughout its nineteen-state territory.
In the western United States, the Cellular One brand will be managed by an independent trustee, until Alltel finds a buyer for it. As Andrew Moreau, a spokesman for Alltel, has announced, a former Western Wireless staff member would be hired to continue running the Cellular One property until it is sold.
Some Cellular One franchisees are still a little worried. Richard Watkins, CEO of Cellular One of Northeast Arizona in Show Low, Ariz said: "The trustee will run the brand, but it will remain stagnant until a buyer is found that wants to grow the brand."
There is one possible buyer for the Cellular One brand - Dobson Communications. J. Warren Henry, the vice president of investor relations for Dobson Communications, says that if the company does not purchase the brand, it still has four years left on its five-year contract to use the brand, regardless of the owner. "We still have a contractual agreement for four more years," he says.
Alltel is sure that it will find a buyer for this popular brand in the western United States. "It's obviously a well-known brand in the wireless industry," Moreau says. "Once we start the selling process, I am sure there will be a buyer for it."
American Radio Telephone Services created the Cellular One brand in 1984, in order to help the company compete against Bell Atlantic Wireless - the predecessor to Verizon Communications. In 1987, the rights to the brand were purchased by Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems. In 1989, McCaw Cellular Communications teamed with SBC to expand the brand, which led to the growth of the Cellular One's status. When, in 1992, Vanguard Cellular Systems joined the group, the Cellular One Group was formed. It promoted the brand nationwide. In 2001, the majority of rights to the Cellular One brand were acquired by Western Wireless. As a result, the Cellular One Group gained a hundred percent ownership.
Bringing together several diverse carriers under one brand name was the original purpose of the Cellular One brand. From the very beginning, Cellular One carriers were both: large and small operators. Today, the Cellular One operators are independent rural carriers.
With Cellular One's shrinking footprint, its rural franchisees are hoping that a new owner will be able to revitalize the brand.