6:45 AM -- As discussed earlier, Best Deal Maker was a crowded category again in this year's Leading Lights. Here are the seven finalists we settled upon, and our reasons:
CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) -- Buying Qwest was certainly a big move for the former second-tier U.S. player, and that was followed up with the US$2.5 billion acquisition of Savvis to quickly build a stronger cloud story. Suddenly, CenturyLink is an important enough carrier to run Slinky ads on national TV. (For purposes of this article, that counts as a good thing.)
Dimension Data -- This one's a tale of the cloud and of Bridging the Chasm. NTT acquired Dimension Data for $3.2 billion in a deal that mixed telecom and IT knowhow. Then, recently, the combined entity picked up OpSource Ltd. , a cloud provider that should benefit from the access to Dimension Data's IT expertise. (Dimension Data, not NTT, was the entity that filed the Leading Lights entry.)
Genband Inc. -- The acquisition of the former Nortel Networks Ltd. Carrier VoIP and Application Solutions (CVAS) business made Genband a 2010 Leading Lights contender. Genband has since added the pickup of Cedar Point Communications to become the cable VoIP leader. Genband narrowly missed finalist status last year, and we thought the company's master plan to become an IP switching powerhouse deserves a nod.
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) -- Sure, this one's a gamble on our part. There's evidence that Google wanted Motorola Mobility LLC just for its patents, not for the hardware. But there's potential for something big here. With Motorola, Google gets a ready-made reference platform to show other Android partners without necessarily trampling them in the market.
LightSquared -- The Deal Maker category doesn't have to be about acquisitions. Just staying alive has taken a lot of wheeling and dealing for this 4G hopeful. We're impressed, especially since the company is claiming nearly 20 customers before even lighting up a network. And if you want a dollar figure involved, how about the $265 million it raised in July? Our one concern: that the government could scotch LightSquared's whole business model right after the awards ceremony.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) -- The deal with struggling Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) gives Windows Phone 7 an ally against the Android operating system. Now Microsoft has added Skype to that mix, a response (albeit an expensive one) to apps such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s FaceTime. And Skype is likely to end up all over Windows, although that's outside Light Reading's purview.