C Spire’s rivalry with AT&T heats up

Mississippi River
Mississippi stands as a battleground between C Spire and AT&T. (Willard/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

The enmity between regional telecom provider C Spire and its much larger competitor AT&T appears to have kicked into high gear this week, with the two companies fighting over a major telecom services contract in the state of Mississippi. The latest conflagration between the two companies follows AT&T’s announcement late last year that it would challenge C Spire in markets in its home base of Mississippi with fixed wireless services.

The latest dustup between C Spire and AT&T centers on an eight-year contract for wireline voice and data services for Mississippi's state government, covering schools, libraries and other public locations. C Spire CEO Hu Meena said the carrier won the contract in December (PDF) with its $120 million bid, beating out AT&T’s roughly $150 million bid.

But Meena—who approached FierceWireless about the topic—said the state’s Department of Information Technology Services is now reconsidering AT&T’s proposal following a formal protest on the topic filed by AT&T. Michele Blocker, the chief administrative officer for the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services, confirmed that the agency’s executive director is still considering AT&T’s protest and has not rendered a decision yet.

“We have an historic commitment to building communications networks to serve Mississippi businesses, residents and government,” AT&T explained in a statement to FierceWireless when questioned about the issue. “As a part of the normal contracting and bid process, we filed our concerns with the Department of Information Technology Services regarding the recent statewide technology RFP. While our bid fully met the specific, clearly identified requirements outlined in the RFP, we believe the selected bid does not. We appreciate this review by the department and look forward to their response.”

“We have been looking forward to serving the state of Mississippi with those services, but after the New Year began AT&T protested,” Meena said. “They did not like the fact that this business had been taken away from them, even though they had been providing these services over antiquated copper plant while we're providing services over our newly installed fiber network that we're adding to every day.”

C Spire counts just under 1 million wireless customers, but has also been working to expand a fiber network throughout its coverage area.

Meena’s comments about AT&T follow from the two companies’ dueling fixed wireless announcements. Indeed, C Spire specifically called out AT&T’s fixed wireless service when C Spire announced the launch of its own fixed wireless offering in September.

“Unlike competitors like AT&T that are rolling out fixed wireless products of 10 Mbps as part of the FCC Connect America Fund commitment, our initial privately funded rollout will have typical throughput of 25 Mbps, a speed the FCC defined in 2015 as basic broadband internet,” C Spire said at the time. C Spire said it will launch fixed wireless services in eight initial markets in Mississippi, and that it expects to eventually cover 200,000 consumers and businesses in the state with the technology.

AT&T, meanwhile, countered in October that its fixed wireless service is available in 46 counties in the state.