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Friday, April 13, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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260 jobs cut as Alltel shuts Issaquah call center

Seattle Times technology reporter

Alltel Wireless said Thursday it is closing an Issaquah call center and eliminating 260 jobs, moves that come two years after it acquired Bellevue-based Western Wireless in a $4.4 billion deal.

The Little Rock, Ark.-based company, the fifth-largest U.S. carrier, sells wireless and mobile-phone services in rural and smaller markets in the U.S., none in Washington state.

It said it will close the facility on Sammamish Road by fall with layoffs coming in two stages — 89 positions in June and 159 in October. In addition, 12 positions will be eliminated in Bellevue, where it continues to maintain an office of former Western Wireless employees.

"This decision is part of our normal review of business processes and will enable Alltel to more efficiently serve our customers," Dan Lohr, Alltel executive vice president of customer support, said in a release.

Andrew Moreau, a company spokesman, said the closure is not part of a companywide cutback and that the customer calls handled in Issaquah would be rerouted to the 14 other call centers the company maintains.

After the purchase of Western Wireless in August 2005, Alltel said it would lay off 140 to 330 Western Wireless employees, none of them call-center workers. At the time, Western Wireless had 930 employees in Washington. After this restructuring, there will be 115.

Western Wireless, co-founded by John Stanton, was caught in a wave of wireless consolidation after the purchase of Redmond-based AT&T Wireless by Cingular Wireless. Soon after, Sprint purchased Nextel Communication, which eventually led to the absorption of Kirkland-based Nextel Partners. Cingular Wireless, now called AT&T, still has a significant presence in Redmond and Bothell, and T-Mobile's U.S. division is headquartered in Bellevue.

Alltel said about 10 of the employees being laid off were offered new jobs and the rest will be able to apply for open positions within the company. Moreau said the company will provide severance to eligible employees along with outplacement and career services.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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