OKLAHOMA CITY - Dobson Communications Corp. has become the largest provider of cellular telephone service in Alaska.
The Oklahoma City-based company announced Wednesday that it had expanded its operations in that state by completing a swap of wireless properties with AT&T Wireless Services.
Dobson acquired two Alaska coverage areas, including Anchorage, in exchange for its two California wireless properties, which included the city of Santa Cruz.
As part of the deal, AT&T Wireless returned 200,000 shares of Dobson preferred stock it bought for $200 million in 2001 back to Dobson. Dobson said it will cancel the stock and $26 million in accrued dividends.
The Alaska properties contain about 380,000 people, the company said. Dobson already provided wireless service to areas in Alaska that included Juneau and Fairbanks.
"This transaction benefits Dobson Communications by combining the state's three largest population centers into one statewide, wireless footprint that covers 91 percent of Alaska's population," Dobson said.
"We plan to expand wireless coverage and introduce new voice and data services throughout Alaska."
Warren Henry, Dobson vice president for investor relations, said the company plans to upgrade its Alaska network to improve cell phone service.
"This was one of those agreements that is very positive for both AT&T Wireless and for Dobson," Henry said.
"They get some property in California that's going to be very important for them, and we get access to all of the state of Alaska, which is really going to be important to us and our growth."
Dobson has more than 1 million customers, mostly in rural areas, in 16 states.