Telecompetitor has been doing annual telecom/ broadband M&A roundups for several years. Unlike some other recent years, 2021 had no telecom megamergers such as the one between T-Mobile and Sprint or AT&T and Time Warner – at least, not in the U.S.
In Canada, heavyweights Rogers and Shaw plan to merge. And there was plenty of M&A on the U.S. side of the border as well.
Telecompetitor didn’t cover every deal on the telecom and broadband front, but we covered a lot of them. Here’s our roundup of last year’s M&A activity, which includes deals that closed in the year as well as deals that were announced but have not yet closed.
The Big Telecom Guys
Perhaps the biggest telecom/ broadband M&A story of 2021 was Lumen’s decision to sell its local exchange businesses in 20 states to Apollo Management. The deal isn’t expected to close until the second half of 2021 but Apollo already has announced its name for the new company.
A smaller but similar deal involved Consolidated selling its Ohio operations to Hanson Communications.
Another big M&A story was Cincinnati Bell’s sale to Macquarie Infrastructure Partners.
Meanwhile, Verizon has been buying up certain assets of smaller wireless carriers that participated in the Verizon LTE in Rural America program, including Chariton Valley and Triangle Mobile of Montana.
Like Verizon, T-Mobile also seems to want greater control of the assets underling its wireless service, having finalized its acquisition of Shentel’s wireless business per a years-old agreement with Sprint.
The most acquisitive company on the cable side in recent years has been Altice – and 2021 was no exception. In March, the company announced plans to buy Morris Broadband.
Meanwhile, Cox bought Segra’s commercial enterprise and carrier business.
CableOne also has been quite active on the M&A front, purchasing the remaining part of Hargray that it didn’t already own in 2021.
Private Equity Still a Player
Macquarie’s acquisition of Cincinnati Bell wasn’t the only example of private equity entering into the telecom/broadband arena in 2021.
Zayo was acquired by Digital Colony Partners and the EQT Infrastructure Fund in 2020. The provider’s 2021 Intelligent Fiber Network acquisition is therefore an example of private equity investment in broadband.
Other examples of private equity investment in telecom and broadband:
- Alaska Communications sale to ATN International, Inc. and Freedom 3 Capital
- SDC Capital Partners investing in IQ Fiber
- Stonepeak acquiring Astound Broadband (see also Astound’s acquisition from WOW! in the previous section)
Fixed Wireless Gains Appeal
The past year also saw multiple M&A deals involving fixed wireless – a technology that has advanced considerably in recent years and that could receive a boost from new government rural broadband funding programs.
Perhaps the biggest deal in this area was the one designed to take Starry public via a merger with First Horizon. Starry was one of the largest winning bidders in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, although the FCC has not yet released the company’s funding.
Other fixed wireless deals of 2021:
- Nextlink buying three smaller providers
- Ting acquiring Simply Bits
- VTX1 buying TISD
- Cal.net merging with Winters Broadband
Consolidation Continues Among Smaller Providers
A large amount of the M&A activity in 2021 involved one relatively small provider purchasing another. In some cases, one incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) acquired another, while other deals involved various combinations of competitive carriers, ILECs, cable companies, etc.
Deals involving smaller providers that we covered in 2021 include:
- C Spire buying Troy Cablevision
- Metronet acquiring Michigan provider CTS
- Pinpoint acquiring assets of Spiral Communications of Nebraska
- Taylor Systems merging with NLBC
- The merger of Fiber Minnesota, Broadband Visions and SM Broadband
- Comporium’s purchase of Chesnee Communications
- TruVista’s purchase of PlantTel
- Poka Lambro Telephone Cooperative’s purchase of certain Vexus Fiber assets
- Schurz Communications’ purchase of NKTelco
- ITC Broadband Holdings purchase of USConnect Holdings
- Dobson Fiber’s acquisition of Pinnacle Communications
Although we’re just over two weeks into 2022, we’ve already seen at least three new deals announced, suggesting that this year will be another big one on the M&A front.
We look forward to covering these deals for you throughout the year.