Small operator extinction

Over the past year we saw many operators snatch up smaller players in an effort to increase their footprint and continue their strong subscriber growth. It's clearly more economical for large operators to deploy new technologies in rural markets than for small operators with tiny footprints and less buying power.

Some purchases were quite small such as Leap buying Hargray Wireless for $30 million, Verizon Wireless snapping up Ramcell for an undisclosed amount and AT&T purchasing its remaining stake in Edge Wireless, a long-time affiliate in the Pacific Northwest. Others were more substantial such as AT&T acquiring Dobson Communications for $2.8 billion, Verizon buying Rural Cellular Corp. for $2.67 billion and T-Mobile USA snapping up SunCom Wireless for $2.4 billion. 

For vendors the shrinking base of Tier 2 and Tier 3 carriers means fewer customers to buy their equipment. Obviously if you're a vendor with a Tier 1 customer base, this isn't a problem. But for smaller vendors, the Tier 3 carriers often offered them a chance to get a foothold in the market. -Sue