WIRELESS Alltel eyes NW carrier

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alltel Corp., the nation's sixth-largest wireless carrier, is in advanced negotiations about buying Western Wireless Corp., a Northwest regional carrier that operates mainly under the Cellular One brand, for roughly $4 billion, according to a published report.
The New York Times said in Thursday's editions that unidentified executives close to the talks expect a deal could be reached within the next week, but also said several points remain unsettled and the talks could collapse.
Andrew Moreau, a spokesman for Alltel, declined to comment. Western Wireless spokesman Steve Winslow did not immediately return calls seeking a comment.
A deal would mark the latest consolidation in the wireless phone service industry where prices are constantly dropping.
Last month, Sprint Corp. agreed to buy Nextel Communications Inc., the fifth biggest U.S. wireless provider, for $35 billion in a deal that would fortify Sprint's position as the nation's third largest wireless service provider behind Cingular Wireless and Verizon Wireless.
A Sprint-Nextel combination would have 35 million wireless subscribers and a combined $40 billion in annual revenue.

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