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Verizon to buy tiny Montana operator, but will ditch Huawei's equipment first

Verizon reached an agreement to purchase Monanta's Triangle Mobile in a transaction the companies expect to close in the middle of this year.

However, before Verizon takes over the company's operations – and works to assimilate its roughly 3,000 customers – the two network operators said they'll work on dumping Huawei's equipment out of Triangle's CDMA network.

"While Triangle's LTE network is already built to Verizon's specifications, Triangle's CDMA service includes equipment manufactured by Huawei. Verizon Wireless does not use Huawei equipment in any of its network infrastructure and, among other things, will replace all Huawei equipment before integrating Triangle's CDMA network into Verizon Wireless's network," Verizon wrote in a filing with the FCC. "Until Verizon technicians have removed and replaced all Huawei equipment, Triangle's management will continue to operate the CDMA network."

Triangle Mobile announced the deal on its website. The company is a member of Verizon's LTE in Rural America (LRA) program. That program spanned 18 carriers in 2019, covering a combined total of around 2.5 million people across more than 129,000 square miles via 1,350 cell sites in 13 states.

Triangle Mobile noted the transaction will not affect its wired landline or Internet service, nor its fixed wireless Internet offerings.

"It is not a complete exit for Triangle Communications from the carrier space," agreed Brian Goemmer, founder of spectrum-tracking company AllNet Insights & Analytics. "They still control AWS-1 and AWS-3 spectrum in Montana that is not subject to this transaction. This transaction seems to be focused on firming up Verizon's lowband 5G strategy and resolving Triangle's concerns with Huawei equipment."

"While Verizon Wireless currently serves parts of these markets, the proposed transaction will expand Verizon Wireless's coverage and service into other parts of the markets that Verizon Wireless does not currently serve," the operator wrote to the FCC. "The proposed transaction also will provide Verizon Wireless with additional spectrum capacity, which will help it to meet demands of its customers for broadband wireless services in the markets."

Verizon officials did not immediately respond to questions from Light Reading about the transaction, including the financial terms of the deal.

Verizon's aversion to Huawei's equipment comes as no surprise. The FCC has dubbed the Chinese vendor a threat to national security. Indeed, the agency is embarking on a $2 billion project to remove equipment from Huawei and other Chinese vendors from all US networks.

But Verizon acknowledged last year that it counted "a relatively small number" of devices called VoiceLink that were made by Huawei. The company said at the time it expected to remove those devices by the end of 2020.

Triangle Mobile is the latest operator to be snapped up by Verizon, following the operator's agreements to acquire Bluegrass Cellular in Kentucky, Chat Mobility in Iowa and Blue Wireless in New York and Pennsylvania.

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

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