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Unicel will change to Verizon on Sunday

Verizon Wireless announced today that it will launch network operations on January 25 in northern Minnesota, including Bemidji.

Customers in those markets and in northeastern South Dakota will be offered nationwide service plans as well as Verizon's latest products and services.

Verizon Wireless acquired these new market areas and the cell sites in August 2008 as part its purchase of Alexandria-based Rural Cellular Corporation, which was doing business as Unicel.

Since then, Verizon Wireless has transitioned the acquired cell sites to its network, and in the coming weeks, will also complete an upgrade of these cell sites to the company's high-speed broadband network.

"We look forward to offering the quality and value of Verizon Wireless' service to these new communities in Minnesota and South Dakota," said Nancy B. Clark, president of the Great Plains region of Verizon Wireless.

The new Verizon network coverage will offer service to a population of more than 600,000 in the two states.

In Minnesota, the new network will adjoin existing Verizon Wireless coverage and include, in part, the following communities: Alexandria, Bemidji, Brainerd, Baxter, Cloquet, Crookston, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, International Falls, Park Rapids, Thief River Falls and Wadena.

In northeastern South Dakota, new service areas will include Watertown and its surrounding communities.

Current Unicel customers will receive direct communication from Verizon Wireless on any changes that will impact their service.

After January 25, these customers' phone numbers will remain the same and their devices will operate on the Verizon Wireless network. However, existing customers who utilize data services (picture messaging, email, Internet access or downloads of ringtones, music and games) will need new handsets or data cards before the billing conversion to Verizon Wireless takes place on March 22.

Those impacted customers will receive equipment offers. Customers who primarily use voice or text messaging will not need a new handset.

Unicel customers can get additional information by going online at or by visiting a local Verizon Wireless communications store.