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By Daily News Staff and The Associated Press
KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Alaska Communications and General Communications Inc. are merging their wireless infrastructures to better compete with communications giants AT&T and Verizon, the Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday.
The move forms a jointly owned subsidiary called the Alaska Wireless Network LLC and will expedite the creation of a 4G LTE network available to the companies’ subscribers, according to the FCC decision, giving them more resources to keep up with out-of-state companies.
GCI will own two-thirds of the venture, according to the FCC, and ACS will own one-third.
"Through the establishment of AWN and related contracts, GCI and ACS Wireless would effectively combine their wireless assets and network operations in Alaska," the FCC stated. "The subsidiary would use these assets to provide wholesale wireless services to GCI and ACS Wireless, each of which would continue to provide retail services to Alaskan consumers."
ACS and GCI will remain retail competitors.
The wireless merger would save both companies "$15 million in annual capital expenditures and $15 million in annual operating expenses," according to the FCC. In addition, the number of cell sites will be reduced through the venture to 300 from 450.
The presidents and chief executives of both companies, in a joint statement, said they believe the new network will provide the "fastest, most geographically extensive and most reasonably priced" wireless service for Alaskans, allowing the companies to more effectively compete.
Alaska Communications spokeswoman Heather Cavanaugh says it will take time to fully integrate the two wireless networks.
AT&T has been the dominant nationwide company in Alaska for several years, but Verizon announced in June that it would be offering data service in the state — a precursor to full operation. Stores will open and phone service is set to begin next year.