Verizon Wireless is in talks to buy Alltel Communications, the country's fifth-largest wireless carrier by subscribers, for $27 billion...

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NEW YORK — Verizon Wireless is in talks to buy Alltel Communications, the country’s fifth-largest wireless carrier by subscribers, for $27 billion, according to business news channel CNBC.

The report this afternoon by David Faber cited unnamed sources. Representatives of Verizon Communications and Alltel had no comment.

If consummated, an acquisition would be the biggest telecom deal since AT&T bought BellSouth at the end of 2006.

Little Rock, Ark.-based Alltel was a public company until it was bought out by TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners in November for $24.7 billion. It has a wide-ranging network covering parts of 35 states concentrated in the middle of the country, and has more than 13 million customers.

Verizon Wireless, the No. 2 wireless carrier, uses the same network technology as Alltel. That makes Verizon Wireless a more likely acquirer than AT&T, which uses an incompatible technology. Regulatory scrutiny of an AT&T deal would also be tougher, since AT&T is the largest carrier.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group of Britain.

Verizon shares fell 38 cents to $36.98 at today’s close.