AT&T/BellSouth combo to spark host of M&A activity

Wireless services have become an important part, if not the most important part, of the telecom conglomerate's arsenal. AT&T's $67 billion acquisition of BellSouth gives the company full control of Cingular Wireless, the nation's largest wireless operator. Having one owner certainly helps Cingular roll out new services quicker and reach the Holy Grail faster: fixed-mobile convergence. This is certainly putting pressure on Verizon Wireless to make some acquisitions. Its first order of business will probably be to gain full ownership of Verizon Wireless by trying to buy out Vodafone's stake so that quicker business decisions can be made. Vodafone's CEO Arun Sarin has said the company isn't ready to sell off the stake, but mounting pressure from both Verizon and Vodafone shareholders could make that a reality.

Super-regional player Alltel is another possibility. The company has already aligned its technology decisions with Verizon. Then Verizon will have to set its sights on buying up Qwest or a cable operator to match the capabilities of the new AT&T in the local and high-speed market. Look for cable operators to make acquisitions to meet the scale and scope of the new AT&T. The merger potential is mind-boggling. Meanwhile, the Cingular brand could be one of the shortest-living major wireless brands in history. Talk about customer confusion.

To read more about the implications AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth:
- check out this article from the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)