Is the iPhone really coming to Montana?

AT&TA recently approved deal between Verizon and AT&T could make some of AT&T’s more advanced network services and devices available in rural areas, including Montana.

AT&T announced yesterday that it had completed a $2.35 billion deal to purchase wireless licenses from Verizon. The licenses were formerly part of the Alltel network, which Verizon bought in 2009.

The deal will improve AT&T’s wireless network coverage in 79 service areas in 18 states, the company said in a press release posted to its website.

AT&T plans to roll out 3G wireless coverage in all of its newly acquired area over the next year. That area includes rural parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming, according to the company’s statement.

From the statement:

For now, there are no changes to customers’ phone numbers, rate plans, network coverage, customer service contacts or processes for making monthly bill payments. During network integration, customers will have the opportunity to select a device comparable to their existing device at no additional cost. They may also choose an upgraded handset from AT&T’s exciting lineup of industry-leading devices.*** Existing AT&T customer contracts are not affected.

This could also mean that local Alltel outlets will be rebranded as AT&T stores.

When Verizon purchased Alltel in 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice required it to get rid of some of its licenses to avoid violating antitrust laws in areas like Bozeman where Alltel and Verizon were the only major competitors. The Chronicle had this story at the time.

AT&T bought the licenses in May 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported.

I have sent an e-mail to AT&T to find out more information about how the deal will affect Bozeman in particular. I’ll post an update when I know more.