ANCHORAGE (AP) -- AT&T Wireless customers in Alaska will be switching cell-phone service providers later this year.
AT&T Wireless and Oklahoma City-based Dobson Communications made a deal to swap some of their wireless licenses and customers. They expect approval from federal regulators this summer.
If the deal is approved, thousands of AT&T Wireless customers in Southcentral Alaska would become Cellular One customers, the brand name under which Dobson does business in Alaska.
For its part, AT&T Wireless would get two of Dobson's wireless networks and customers in and around Santa Cruz, Calif.
Dobson already offers wireless service in and around Fairbanks and Juneau. Its trade with AT&T Wireless would extend the breadth of its coverage to include Southcentral. After the swap, it would add communities including Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Kenai Peninsula, Glennallen and Valdez.
Neither company would say how many AT&T Wireless customers would be included in the swap, nor how their bills, service plans or contracts might change as a result of it.
''We cannot make final decisions on that until we actually own the market,'' said Warren Henry, Dobson's vice president of investor relations.
Customers will not see any difference in how their wireless service works. Phone numbers, voice mail and other calling features will remain the same, Henry said.
Dobson has more than 1 million customers in 17 states, and it specializes in providing wireless phone service to rural and suburban areas. Dobson will do its best to make the switch as smooth as possible for AT&T Wireless customers, Henry said.
''We see it as being in our interest and in the customers' interest to make the transition as easy and painless as possible,'' Henry added. ''And we'll be providing very competitive pricing, and very competitive service.''
By extending its reach into Southcentral and increasing its potential customer base, Dobson's Henry said the Cellular One network will be able to provide service to about 96 percent of Alaska's population.
That broader base of coverage would make it easier for Dobson to offer more advanced communications services as they become available, he said.
From AT&T's standpoint, the deal makes sense because it helps the company strengthen its overall coverage in California, Marshall said.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.