There is a new wireless company in Little Rock, but you’re not likely to know of its existence unless you work there.
Nestled in a former Acxiom building in west Little Rock’s Chenal Valley neighborhood, about 125 employees of Allied Wireless Communications Corp. (AWCC), the wireless subsidiary of Beverly, Mass.-based Atlantic Tele-Network, are busy keeping the cell towers humming and customers happy as they count down the days to total independence.
With roughly $600 million in annual revenue, AWCC is the 8th largest wireless company in the U.S. It is comprised mostly of divested properties from the former Alltel in rural states across the U.S. Verizon was forced to divest a swath of its rural properties in its $28.1 billion buyout of Little Rock-based Alltel. AWCC picked up roughly $200 million in assets, while AT&T is still closing on another $2.35 billion worth of divested properties.
Verizon and AWCC will work for about another 300 days through a transition agreement instituted by regulators before the two companies will act strictly as competitors.
"Verizon has largely been a good partner in this process," says AWCC CEO Frank O’Mara, despite the company’s one-time attempt to legally block him from hiring a former Verizon employee. AWCC and O’Mara aim to tap into a lot of former Alltel talent in the central Arkansas market as the firm aims to increase its headquarters to between 300-350 employees.
Those jobs will be white-collar and high-paying – commiserate with the technical and business skills needed to run a major wireless telecom.
O’Mara tells Talk Business that parent company ATN was both wise and fortunate to choose Little Rock for its wireless headquarters. "Without these talented, experienced people familiar with the assets and the brand, I think the chances of pulling this off would have been very slim," he said.
He also says its staggering that so few employees are doing so much work for the small wireless start-up and its one million customers.
"The most amazing thing is when we consider how few people are doing so much work," said O’Mara, who headed the marketing division for Alltel before its buyout. "We are struggling to keep our heads above water, but our heads are above water, for the record."
An interesting development that AWCC negotiated in its acquisition of properties from Verizon included holding on to the Alltel name and the "My Circle" advertising campaign that gained tremendous popularity when Alltel was competing as the #5 wireless firm in America.
"A lot of good experiences have been created over time with the Alltel brand," O’Mara explains. "We’ve spent well over a billion dollars promoting and establishing the Alltel brand and so why not take advantage of a brand that would have been put to sleep – spayed or neutered as my friend, Bob Barker would say."
You can watch O’Mara’s interview in full here: