Verizon completes Bluegrass Cellular buy

Kentucky
Bluegrass Cellular serves about 210,000 customers in central Kentucky. (Pixabay)

Verizon has completed its acquisition of assets from Bluegrass Cellular, a rural operator serving customers in 34 counties in Kentucky.

First announced in October, the deal includes 210,000 subscribers.  Verizon said it expects most of those customers, alongside Bluegrass’ sales and operations to be fully integrated into Verizon by the end of 2021.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“The expansion of our footprint in the Kentucky market brings our multi-purpose network to the residents and business owners in these areas,” said Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and Group CEO, Verizon Consumer Group, in a statement. “Customers can look forward to having access to the world’s most awarded network for performance, alongside a best-in-class customer experience.”

Bluegrass Cellular served customers in central Kentucky counties in rural service areas (RSAs) 3, 4, and 5, in that area.

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Bluegrass subscribers don’t need to do anything at this time, according to Verizon, and will get information about wireless service offerings starting next month.

Verizon and Bluegrass have been long-time partners. About 10 years ago, the rural operator joined Verizon’s LTE in Rural America program. Two years later, in 2012 Bluegrass launched the first phase of its LTE deployment through the Verizon initiative, which included shared access to the carrier’s 700 MHz Upper C Block spectrum. Bluegrass also became a roaming partner to Verizon. The Bluegrass 4G network was completed in 2015, and VoLTE services launched a few years later.

In 2019, CCA President and CEO Steven Berry cited Bluegrass Cellular among smaller and rural carriers that were moving toward 5G-type services. 

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Bluegrass has explored new spectrum in recent years, including testing the use of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in Kentucky starting in 2018. This past summer, a Kentucky rural cellular consortium participated in the FCC’s auction for CBRS priority access licenses (PALs) under the name Bluegrass Consortium, winning 30 licenses covering 11 counties. The Bluegrass Consortium also secured millimeter wave spectrum in the 24 GHz band at Auction 102 (PDF), with winning bids for 12 licenses in four partial economic areas (PEAs) for around $3.45 million.

Verizon has worked on expanding rural coverage – including its fixed wireless LTE Home Internet offering.

The carrier is also working toward a much larger acquisition, with its pending purchase of prepaid carrier TracFone from  América Móvil. The deal, worth up to $6.9 billion, would add around 21 million prepaid subscribers and still needs to pass regulatory approvals. The FCC is taking additional time to review the Verizon-TracFone deal following requests from state attorneys general in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Some consumer groups, CWA, as well as Boost Mobile founder Peter Adderton have raised concerns over the deal.