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Consumer Cellular fielding interest from buyers – sources

Consumer Cellular – one of the nation's largest MVNOs – is in discussions with other companies for a potential sale, according to two people familiar with the issue. The discussions appear to be in the early stages, and may not result in a transaction.

Nonetheless, if Consumer Cellular were to be sold, it would represent another major upheaval in the mobile market. After all, the space is heating up amid flagging performances by the nation's big wireless network operators and increasing competition from cable companies and Dish Network.

"While the company is always open to strategic partnerships and growth opportunities that will take the company to the next level, there is nothing currently in the works," a Consumer Cellular representative wrote in response to questions on the topic from Light Reading.

Consumer Cellular is one of the country's biggest MVNOs with almost 4 million customers and 2,400 employees. The company, founded in 1995, reportedly offers service via T-Mobile's and AT&T's networks, and targets users over 50 years old.

In terms of MVNOs, few match Consumer Cellular's scale. América Móvil's TracFone is the largest MVNO in the US with roughly 21 million customers. In comparison, Dish Network recently became the nation's second-largest MVNO with the purchase of roughly 9 million prepaid customers from T-Mobile's Boost Mobile-branded operation. Other noteworthy MVNOs include Spectrum Mobile and Xfinity Mobile from Charter Communications and Comcast, respectively.

Although the majority of MVNO traffic runs over the networks of T-Mobile, AT&T or Verizon, the space may soon become more competitive as Charter, Dish and others mull the construction of their own wireless networks. Such moves would reduce their dependence on their MVNO partners, and potentially stiffen the sector's competitive landscape.

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

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