In the past 40 years, telecom giant Alltel has purchased more than 380 companies. Since 1998, it has spent $21 billion on acquisitions...

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In the past 40 years, telecom giant Alltel has purchased more than 380 companies. Since 1998, it has spent $21 billion on acquisitions, including its most recent — Bellevue-based Western Wireless.


Executives from Alltel’s Little Rock, Ark., headquarters flew into town last week, 17 days after the close of the merger, to fill in the 500-or-so Western Wireless employees on its plans.


Kevin Beebe, Alltel’s group president of operations, addressed the employees Thursday.


In an interview before that, he said that despite the fact 140 or more employees would be laid off, Alltel plans to keep the Bellevue office.


“Seattle is arguably the hub for wireless data applications and technology,” Beebe said. “There is a core intelligence in the streets here. We want to keep it and further explore those opportunities.”


Rapping about mapping


Cingular Wireless exec Mike Bennett has spent the past few months traveling the country, talking to consumer groups, government agencies and the media to get the word out about Cingular’s benefits.


Among the items mentioned were the Atlanta-based company’s policy to let unused minutes roll over to the next month, its 30-day return policy and its welcome kit that includes an estimated first bill, including taxes and charges.


Bennett also said one of the great things is that users can search by neighborhood to view their exact coverage.


But they can only do that in Cingular stores today — not on its Web site, unlike Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA, which launched the service earlier this year.


“Damn it, they beat us, but we’ll come back and beat them,” Bennett vowed.


Wireless wars


Analyst Mark Lowenstein listed five key things to watch in the wireless industry over the next year.


One of them was mobile search and directory. In his newsletter Lowenstein’s Lens on Wireless, he wrote:


“I believe the next stage of content will revolve around better discovery, personalization, segmentation and contextual delivery of information. Search and directory will be an incredibly important part of this.”


Already, those signs are becoming apparent. A week after AOL purchased Kirkland-based Wildseed, a wireless-application developer, Google gobbled up Palo Alto, Calif.-based Android, a 22-month-old wireless startup.


Download can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com