Here's What 5 Major Telecom Providers Had To Say About Plans For 2017 And Rampant M&A Rumors

Telecoms Unite

Down the road from CES 2017, last week was Citi's Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas last week. At the show, executives from a slew of global telecom companies, service providers, and media companies shared what their respective companies have been up to, what their plans were for 2017, and even addressed industry speculation in some cases around the changing political climate and potential merger and acquisition plans.

Here is a selection of five of the largest telecom providers and what they had to say at the conference.


Dallas-based AT&T was all-in on 5G at this year's telecom conference. John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T's Technology and Operations unit, discussed the carrier's 5G strategy for this year.

Donovan said that the 5G enterprise wireless trials that AT&T has been conducting have been going very well, and that the carrier would be taking the next step with a trial involving its streaming TV service, DirectTV Now. The DirectTV Now trial will beam the DirectTV Now service to select homes in Austin, Texas, using a 5G wireless service, despite 5G industry standards not being finalized yet.

"Our strategy all along has been to … try to pull the standards up as fast and furious as we can," Donovan said. "We are very optimistic."

CenturyLink and Level 3 Communications

CenturyLink and Level 3 participated in a joint presentation at the conference this year following the providers' plans to merge that was announced at the end of Oct. 2016. During the segment, both providers shared the rationale behind the decision to combine forces with one another.

Stewart Ewing, CenturyLink's CFO, explained that with its big base of enterprise customers, combined with Level 3's reach, the joint company would scale to become second-largest telecommunications provider in the U.S. in terms of business revenue.

Jeff Story, CEO of Level 3, added that the new company would be able to better provide business-grade solutions, such as expanded bandwidth, software-defined networking, and hybrid IT services.

"Level 3 and CenturyLink combined with have about 76 percent of revenue coming from business customers," Story said. "We like the focus of the combined business and think that that's a huge advantage."


Wireless provider Sprint was the last telecom to take the stage at this year's conference. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure took to the stage to give an update on the company's five-year turnaround strategy.

Claure said that Sprint has been busy bettering its network. The company went from being ranked in last place out of the four major wireless carriers in the U.S. five years ago, to landing in the second and third spot in voice and network strength across several popular market research surveys, such as J.D. Power, he said.

Claure also addressed speculation around whether Sprint could be acquired or merge with another company in 2017.

"It's nice to have options … I think we are going to be a formidable partner to potentially merge with another carrier, we are going to be great if a cable company sometime decides there could be a potential merger, but … I am putting my energies into making sure we have a great business so we have opportunities when the time is right."


T-Mobile's CFO Braxton Carter said that one of the "uncarrier's" priorities in 2017 was to "continue with the amazing work" in building out its network. Carter said that CTO Neville Ray and his team have been able to overcome the historical difference that T-Mobile's network has had when compared to the networks of the incumbent carrier competition.

Ray, alongside Carter, said that T-Mobile would be working on advancing to gigabit speeds over LTE. Like its competition, T-Mobile is also conducting 5G trials, but unlike competitor AT&T, T-Mobile doesn't expect the technology to take off for another four to five years, Ray said.

In setting up for CEO John Legere's series of announcements that were made at CES 2017 the next day for cellular customers, Carter promised that T-Mobile would be continuing with its "absolute disruption and innovation" that the provider is bringing to the wireless industry.


Verizon's Marni Walden, executive vice president and president of product innovation and new businesses at Verizon Communications, kicked off the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier's segment by addressing its priorities for the New Year, which included its core networking services, and developing around 4G and 5G technologies.

Verizon will make "disciplined investments" for growth in 2017, but the carrier will also be focusing much of its energies on integrating the recent technologies and companies it acquired in 2016 and 2015, including its Fleetmatics fleet management purchase, as well as its AOL assets, Walden said.

Walden also took questions around the pending Yahoo acquisition, and whether the ailing Internet giant's publicized security breaches would impact the purchase.

"Unfortunately, I can't sit here with confidence and say one way or the other, because we still don't know. There's some things that have to be completed in the investigation … so with time we will have answers to those questions, but we will be very responsible about what we do to make sure we are getting value out of the asset and doing the right thing for our shareholders," Walden said.