When Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless provider, completes it's move into Payson next Monday, all of the area's CellularOne customers will suddenly find themselves with a brand-new cellular-phone service provider.
That's a pretty sizeable group of gabbers, comprising virtually everyone who signed up for their service through Rim Country Cellular, Postal Connections or Payson Electronics.
In fact, the only local cell-phone customers who won't be switched over if they so choose are those who use Alltel, Verizon's sole competition in the Payson area.
"This latest acquisition is great news for our customers in Arizona," noted Marni Walden, Verizon Wireless president Desert Mountain region. "The wireless system that we now control is virtually surrounded by our current operations and serves as a major roaming territory for customers traveling across the state.
"Now that we control the business, we'll be making the necessary network investments to improve service levels for our Arizona customers," Walden said.
The transition represents the last step in Verizon Wireless' $85 million purchase last December of Dobson Communications' controlling interest in a wireless system that serves both Gila and Pinal Counties known in industry parlance as the Arizona #5 Rural Service Area (RSA).
Verizon purchased a 75-percent partnership interest in the Gila River Cellular General Partnership from Dobson Cellular Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dobson Communications Corporation operating under the CellularOne brand. The remaining 25 percent partnership interest is held by Gila River Telecommunications.
The system serves a territory with a total population of approximately 200,000. Major highways in the footprint include the Beeline Highway and Interstates 10 and 8, connecting Payson, Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma.
Verizon is the nation's leading provider of wireless communications and Internet services. The company has the largest nationwide wireless network and 29 million customers.
The Verizon Wireless network is the most expansive in the country. It covers more than 221 million people and nearly 90 per cent of the U.S. population. The company has invested more than $8 billion in the network nationwide over the past two years.
Locally, according to Jenny Weaver, Press relations manager for Verizon Wireless' Valley office, the company will move quickly to convert the operations that use TDMA (time division multiple access) to the preferred CDMA (code division multiple access) network platform, which is in place throughout the rest of the country.
What this means in plain English, Weaver said, is that Gila and Pinal County customers can look forward to enhanced call quality, more service features, and a larger calling area footprint.
And what does it mean for current CellularOne customers?
"We will be communicating directly with them to welcome them to Verizon Wireless and to let them know how to change out their wireless handsets," Weaver said. "The conversion to CDMA technology is scheduled for completion by Monday, April 15. We encourage qualifying former Dobson CellularOne customers to visit (their local vendor) beginning Monday to transition their wireless calling service to the Verizon Wireless network."
If for any reason current CellularOne customers don't wish to make the transition to Verizon, Weaver said, they may end their CellularOne contracts, no matter when they are due to expire.
But those who do choose to go with Verizon, she added, can put their old wireless phone to good use by donating it to the HopeLineSM, Verizon Wireless' exclusive national phone recycling program that directly benefits victims of domestic violence. Tax receipts are available.
For more information on what CellularOne customers need to do in order to complete the transition to Verizon Wireless, contact Rim Country Cellular (130 E. Highway 260; 474-4744), Postal Connections (250 E. Highway 260; 474-4010); or Payson Electronics (209 E. Highway 260; 472-7148).
CellularOne customers who wish to switch to Alltel can contact Alltel Wireless Services (300 N. Highway 260, inside Wal-Mart; 472-8212).
See page 9A to learn how to select the best cell-phone plan for your family.