The telecommunications industry has long been an economic powerhouse, not only in the US but across Canada and the world. Nevertheless, activities in 2020 have contributed to a consequential acceleration in this transformation. A clear impact of this transformation is visible on the increased Merger & Acquisition (M&A) activity. At the beginning of the year, the spotlight was on the long-due Sprint/T-mobile merger. The massive $26 billion deal finally completed after two years in April 2020. Further, Tier-2 and Tier-3 operators, as well as predominantly rural fixed wireless (WISP) operators, also found themselves under increased M&A attention.
A dramatic surge in broadband traffic growth during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the expansion of 5G and other access technologies, have contributed to the proverbial wind behind the fixed wireless industry’s back. WISPA’s survey of its members, back in August 2020, revealed significant consumer insights. Firstly, average download traffic increased by over 40% during peak times compared to pre-pandemic days. Moreover, many WISPs reported an increase in customers and demand for higher speed packages leading to increased revenue. Additionally, access to new billion-dollar government funding programs has led to an increase in the growth appetite for WISP operators. Armed with multi-million dollar grants, local WISPs are now aspiring for significant growth across city and state lines, and subscriber counts running into the thousands.
CoBank, a leading private credit provider reported that rural broadband valuations are continuing to rise as investors move downmarket for new opportunities. While M&A activity is not new to the fixed wireless industry, the last couple of years have seen a surge. This increase is not only in the number of deals but also the growing size and value. This is why we’re starting a new fixed wireless (WISP) M&A deal tracker.
Fixed Wireless M&A Tracker – Who’s This For?
Our hope with this tracker is to keep abreast of the latest developments in the fixed wireless industry when it comes to mergers, acquisitions, and investments. We hope that this information will be of value to not only fixed wireless operators but also to mainstream media and consumers interested in learning more about WISPs and the industry in general. After all, WISPs perform a critical role in bridging the digital divide in America and around the world.
Our fixed wireless M&A tracker has three parts:
- Fixed wireless operators M&A deals
- Industry vendors / manufacturers & supplier deals
- Investment firms and banking news
Fixed Wireless Operators M&A Deals
|Buyer||Target||Target City / State / Territory||Month||Additional Deal Information|
|Cal.net||Winters Broadband||Winters, California||April, 2021||Network enhancements including LTE technology, capacity improvements, and higher speed packages to be made available to customers as a result of the merger.|
|Altice USA||Morris Broadband||Western North Carolina||March, 2021||Acquisition adds 36,500 residential and business customers to Altice USA's network.|
|Cable One||Hargray Communications||Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina||February, 2021||Acquisition will capitalize on Hargray’s experience in fiber expansion and serve customers in 14 markets Southeastern U.S. markets.|
Affordable Internet Solutions (AIS)
Infinity 8 Broadband (I8)
|February 2021||Undisclosed amount. 3 companies cover 15,000 square miles across 40 counties.|
|Boston Omaha Corporation (FIF Utah)||Utah Broadband (UBB)||Draper, Utah and nearby regions||December, 2020||UBB serves over 10,000 customers. Deal included $21.6 million paid in cash to UBB's founder & CEO as well as 20% of common membership interests of FIF Utah, valued at US$ 5.4 million.|
|GeoLinks||TPx Communications||Bay Area, CA and Las Vegas||October, 2020||Deal to only acquire network assets, including fixed wireless infrastructure and spectrum licenses.|
|NextLink||Xtremeair||Cushing, Iowa||September, 2020|
|Rural Telecommunications of America, Inc. (RTA)||Net3 ISP||Odessa/Midland, Texas||August, 2020|
|Cable One||Wisper ISP and NextLink||Mascoutah, Illinois|
|August, 2020||Cable One acquired 40% stake in Wisper ISP and a less than 10% stake in NextLink. Both companies are CAF-II winners as well.|
|NextLink||Network Business Systems (NBS)||Geneseo, Illinois||May, 2020|
|Rural Telecommunications of America, Inc. (RTA)||Southern Broadband, LLC (SBB)||Galveston County, Texas||February, 2020||RTA anticipates more than 10,000 new customers to be added to the SBB network|
|Watch Communications||Sit-CO||Evansville, Indiana||January, 2020||Acquisition increased Watch's subscriber base by over 2,200 residential and enterprise customers.|
Vendor / Manufacturer & Supplier Deals
|BCM One||SkySwitch||Managed technology solutions, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaas)||January, 2021|
|Bark Technologies||Router Limits||Parental Controls Router||February, 2020|
|Minim||Aerez||Managed WiFi||February, 2019|
Investment Firms & Banking News
- January 2021: WeLink (startup WISP operator currently serving Las Vegas) received a $185 million investment from Digital Alpha Advisors – an investment firm tied to Cisco to expand its fixed wireless internet service into ten US cities. More info here.