FCC gives Verizon/Alltel buyout the greenlight

It’s been nearly five months since Verizon announced their plans to buy out Alltel, but they’ve finally leaped the last hurdle. Just minutes ago, the FCC signed off on the $28.1 billion dollar deal (Verizon is paying $5.9 billion, and assuming $22.2 billion of Alltel’s debt.)

The FCC’s stamp of approval doesn’t come without strings attached, however. Amongst other conditions, Verizon will be required to maintain any roaming agreements Alltel has with other carriers for at least four years. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin originally requested that roaming agreements would be honored for two years, and Verizon responded with the offer to honor them for four. This still wasn’t quite enough for some; though the vote passed 5-0, 2 of those who voted yes dissented, feeling that the roaming agreements should be required for at least seven years.

Before the merger, Verizon had roughly 70.8 million subscribers. With Alltel bringing around 13 million new subscribers to their door, this brings Verizon’s total up to approximately 83.8 million, dethroning AT&T (with 74.8 million) from the number one spot.

What does this mean to Verizon/Alltel customers? Well, “the network” just got a whole lot bigger – Alltel customers will soon have an additional 71 million people or so they can call without gobbling up their minutes. Beyond that, both groups gain access to the other’s device lineup, with Alltel customers now able to take advantage of Verizon’s bring-your-own-handset “Open Development” program.