Shentel reaches deal to acquire nTelos

Shenandoah Telecommunications Inc. has reached a deal to purchase Waynesboro-based nTelos Inc. at $9.25 per share, the company has announced.

Willy Pirtle, vice president of wireless of Edinburg-based Shentel, said the deal will largely affect customers of nTelos and Shentel’s Sprint coverage once it is approved and closed.

“Anything that is in the nTelos west market will be re-branded to Sprint. So, the 38 stores that nTelos has will have a Sprint sign,” Pirtle said. “The current plan is to migrate all of (the nTelos) customers over … with plans that are exactly like the ones they have or better.”

“They will keep their plan, they’ll pay the same amount for it. The only thing they’ll see different on their bill is they will have a Sprint logo on it,” Pirtle said.

Pirtle indicated that this deal will not affect customers of Shentel’s cable or Internet services in the Shenandoah Valley.

However, he said that it will mean a larger mobile coverage area for nTelos and Sprint customers in the western and southwestern portions of that state.

“The nTelos coverage area is from Charlottesville west through western Virginia, southwestern Virginia and the state of West Virginia,” Pirtle said.

He added that only around 30 percent of nTelos’ coverage has been upgraded to 4G LTE capacity, which Shentel will be looking to upgrade after the deal is closed.

To fund this upgrade and expansion, Shentel will be investing $300 million on top of the yet-to-be-determined closing price of the nTelos deal.

In 2012, Shentel expanded its Sprint-affiliated 4G LTE network coverage throughout the valley and the state.

With the acquisition of nTelos, Shentel said that the deal will give customers more range throughout the Shenandoah Valley — especially areas south of Harrisonburg.

“The geography that we are purchasing from them overlaps nicely with what we already have,” Pirtle said.

Shentel is projecting the creation of 150 new coverage sites as a result of the deal — with the locations yet to be determined.

Pirtle said that another one of the company’s goals with the deal is to provide better service than any other telecommunications company in the western portion of the state — including Verizon and AT&T.

“What we did is took the Verizon coverage, the AT&T coverage and the U.S. Cellular … and we made our coverage better than theirs,” Pirtle said. “See, they don’t cover the whole geography.”

“What we’re trying to do is have a bigger and better network than anyone in that marketplace,” Pirtle said.

Shentel is looking to install these planned 150 coverage sites where the competition is.

“We’ve just gone intentionally to find where AT&T has coverage, where Verizon has coverage and where U.S. Cellular has coverage that nTelos doesn’t,” Pirtle said.

In a separate transaction, Shentel also announced a new agreement with Sprint in which Sprint will provide $252 million over five years in an amended version of affiliation agreement.

Pirtle said they are looking to close the deal with nTelos in the first quarter of 2016, pending unanimous approval from both companies’ boards of directors and permission from the Federal Communications Commission to transfer nTelos’ licenses.

The two companies began conversations last September, after Shentel learned that nTelos was interested in being purchased, Pirtle noted.

“It’s a win for nTelos customers, it’s a win for Shentel and it’s a win for Sprint,” Pirtle said. “You don’t get many deals like that.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com