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Verizon announces it will enter Alaska cell phone market

Verizon Wireless says that it is coming to Alaska and will announce the details in weeks and months to come.

Verizon has the largest mobile phone network in the country and it competes heavily with AT&T Wireless, which controls Alaska's largest mobile phone network. Both companies offer the popular iPhone and other smart phones.

A Verizon Wireless spokesman said it is too early to share details about its service in Alaska, such as when it will have its debut and which cities and towns will get coverage. But he did say the company will bring 4G LTE, a speedier and more expensive data network, to Alaska.

"We'll announce details as we get closer," said the Verizon spokesman, Scott Charlston.

Other wireless providers in Alaska said they are monitoring Verizon's plans.

"We are well-positioned as a company. Plus, we like a good fight now and again ... that's the core of who we are," said Dave Morris, a spokesman for General Communication Inc.

"We offer a lot of bundled services, which Verizon won't," he added. He was referring to the company's bundled cable modem, cable TV and land-line offerings.

Alaska Communications spokeswoman Heather Cavanaugh said it's unclear for now what Verizon's move to Alaska means for her company. It's a big question, because Verizon customers who travel or live in Alaska receive their wireless service through Alaska Communications.

"Alaska was the only state in which (Verizon) did not have 4G spectrum, and we know it's important for them to offer coverage in all 50 states," Cavanaugh said.

In November the Federal Communication Commission approved Verizon's request to acquire a broadband license for Alaska from another wireless company, called Triad Communications. Several years ago, a subsidiary of California-based Triad purchased the Alaska bandwidth from the federal government, but it never developed service here.

Verizon said in its application for Triad's license that FCC approval would "increase competition in Alaska by allowing Verizon Wireless to enter Alaska markets as a new wireless competitor."

AT&T is the biggest cell phone carrier in Alaska, followed by GCI Wireless and Alaska Communications.

Reach Elizabeth Bluemink at ebluemink@adn.com or 257-4317.

By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK

ebluemink@adn.com

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