03:38 PM

AT&T Gains 1.7 Million Wireless Subscribers In Dobson Deal

Customers of both carriers can anticipate expanded third-generation cellular coverage as AT&T adds Dobson's 850 MHz spectrum to its GSM network.

AT&T next month will begin transitioning Dobson Communications customers to its network, products, and services, following the close of its acquisition of the wireless telecom carrier on Thursday.

With the completion of a $2.8 billion cash deal to acquire Dobson, which provides rural and suburban wireless services under the Cellular One brand, AT&T has gained an additional 1.7 million subscribers.

The two carriers previously had a roaming agreement under which AT&T customers received wireless coverage on Dobson's network for an additional roaming charge, and vice versa.

Now AT&T customers will be able to roam free of charge in rural and suburban areas in Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, existing Dobson customers will be able to access AT&T's nationwide digital voice and data network without a roaming charge.

By Dec. 9, Dobson customers can sign up for AT&T's service plans and purchase AT&T mobile phones. One phone in particular that customers are excited to get their hands on is Apple's iPhone, which until now was exclusively available to AT&T customers, said a company's spokeswoman.

AT&T said it will honor the current rate plans for Dobson customers, but those that prefer to migrate to an AT&T plan will be able to do so without additional activation or upgrade fees.

While AT&T expects a smooth transition since the two carriers use complementary cellular technologies based on GSM, it is presented with a challenge of integrating the Dobson and AT&T wireless networks, combining product portfolios, and merging customer service.

In the future, customers of both carriers can anticipate expanded third-generation cellular coverage in the U.S. as AT&T adds Dobson's 850 MHz spectrum to its GSM network. Additionally, AT&T plans to re-brand Dobson as AT&T and complete the process by the end of the second quarter of next year.

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