Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest carrier, extended its lead over second-place T-Mobile and third-place AT&T by purchasing some assets belonging to Bluegrass Cellular. The rural wireless provider covers central Kentucky and provides service to 210,000 customers in 34 counties. The transaction still needs to be approved by the FCC although we don't expect this approval to take nearly as long as the T-Mobile-Sprint merger did. There are other conditions as well, and the deal is expected to close later this year or early in 2021.
Bluegrass customers will be sent information from Verizon when any decisions need to be made pertaining to their options for wireless service delivered by Big Red. You might recall that Bluegrass Cellular was one of the rural carriers that co-signed a letter with Verizon and AT&T late last year demanding that the FCC auction off mid-band spectrum in the 3.7GHz to 4.2GHz range.
Ronan Dunne, Executive Vice President and Group CEO, Verizon Consumer Group, said, "We are excited to acquire certain assets of Bluegrass Cellular and expand our footprint in Kentucky. We look forward to welcoming Bluegrass customers and employees into the Verizon family and providing them with reliable wireless service alongside a best-in-class customer experience."
Ron Smith, President of Bluegrass Cellular, also had a comment. "We launched the first wireless company in central Kentucky 29 years ago," he said. "We’ve always known that our customers were the most important part of our business, and we pride ourselves on playing an important role in connecting our community. I’m confident that Verizon will continue to be the same good neighbor that we’ve been and will provide crucial and reliable wireless connectivity to our rural communities."
Last month, Verizon bought Tracfone, the largest MVNO in the country, for $6 billion. Tracfone customers were already relying on Verizon's network for service. As of the second quarter of this year, Verizon had 119.9 million subscribers while T-Mobile counted 98.3 million. AT&T was third with 92.9 million and Dish Network, the "fourth nationwide facilities-based network competitor," designed to replace Sprint, has 9.3 million subscribers.