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5G and Beyond

Verizon buys tiny wireless operator in Texas

Verizon is acquiring yet another small wireless network operator in a move designed to plug some gaps in its 5G coverage in Texas.

"West Central Wireless has entered into a transaction with Verizon that will result in us discontinuing our mobile and fixed wireless operations," wrote Mike Higgins, the general manager of West Central Wireless, on the operator's web site. Higgins said the company would discontinue its services sometime next year.

West Central Wireless "covers 353,000 Texans per BroadbandNow, including the city of San Angelo, which has 100,000+ residents," wrote Wave7 Research analyst Jeff Moore, who broke the news in a report to his subscribers. "Verizon and AT&T have acquired numerous regional carriers during the past two decades."

Verizon confirmed its intent to purchase West Central Wireless in a statement to Light Reading: "Verizon has signed an agreement to acquire select spectrum and wireless assets of West Central Wireless. The acquisition is subject to FCC approval and other conditions and is expected to close in mid-2023. This transaction will expand Verizon's services into the west central area of Texas."

The proposed acquisition follows a pattern. In recent years, Verizon has purchased Missouri's Chariton Valley Communications Corporation (CVCC), Monanta's Triangle Mobile, Bluegrass Cellular in Kentucky, Chat Mobility in Iowa and Blue Wireless in New York and Pennsylvania.

According to Brian Goemmer, founder of spectrum-tracking company AllNet Insights & Analytics, purchasing West Central Wireless would be a wise move because Verizon has a hole in its Texan spectrum holdings almost exactly the size and shape of West Central Wireless' coverage area.

West Central Wireless owns spectrum including 600MHz and 2.5GHz. Click here for a larger version of this image. (Source: AllNet Insights & Analytics)
West Central Wireless owns spectrum including 600MHz and 2.5GHz. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: AllNet Insights & Analytics)

Goemmer speculated that Verizon could use West Central Wireless' cellular holdings to augment its 5G coverage in the region. However, he noted that West Central Wireless also owns some 600MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum.

Verizon doesn't use 2.5 GHz spectrum in its wireless network, but T-Mobile does. "What would Verizon want from T-Mobile for these spectrum licenses?" Goemmer wondered.

Verizon's intent to acquire West Central Wireless is a relatively minor development in a broad, decades-long trend that has seen the big nationwide mobile operators snap up smaller, regional players.

"Buffaloes once roamed the plains, great in number. But there was excessive hunting of these majestic beasts and while they still live in select areas, their herds are not what they used to be," Wave7's Moore wrote recently in FierceWireless. "It's the same with regional and rural wireless carriers."

Moore argued that the nation's big cable companies, including Comcast, Charter Communications and Cox, have largely replaced regional providers as drivers of competition in the US wireless industry.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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