The Top 10 Telecom Mergers And Acquisitions Of 2018 (So Far)

Consolidation Craze

Merger mania has taken hold of the telecommunications industry. The influx of news around planned and completed mergers and acquisitions just keeps coming so far this year as carriers and cable providers seek to expand their footprints and grow their bases of consumers and business customers. Many service providers also are actively building up their content portfolios via acquisitions in an effort to compete with the streaming content providers that are taking the market by storm and gaining new customers hand over fist.

At the same time, a seemingly more merger-friendly Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice is causing many in the industry to believe it's now easier for carriers to join forces.

With a bustling M&A season under way, CRN has rounded up the 10 biggest telecom acquisitions of 2018 … so far.

(For more on the biggest news of 2018, check out " CRN's Tech Midyear In Review. ")

10. Zayo Buys Neutral Path Communications, Near North Partners For $31.5 Million

Bandwidth and co-location provider Zayo Group has been busy for the past three years scooping up connectivity and data center assets from fellow telecom service providers. In January, the Boulder, Colo.-based provider said it would buy all assets of Neutral Path Communications and its subsidiary, Near North Partners, for $31.5 million.

Neutral Path, a long-haul infrastructure provider, operated a fiber network in the Midwest. The deal gives Zayo an additional 452 owned, as well as leased route miles to its already robust North American network, allowing the provider to reach more U.S. markets with fiber-based lit and dark fiber services. The deal closed in April.

9. Windstream Buys Mass Communications For $37.5 Million

Telecom service provider Windstream nabbed privately held telecom network management provider Mass Communications for $37.5 million in April. Little Rock, Ark.-based Windstream went after Mass Communications, a 100 percent channel-focused provider, to build up its networking portfolio.

Combined, Windstream and Mass Communications is offering a broader range of custom voice, networking and global cloud solutions, as well as managed SD-WAN and security solutions for small and midsize companies.

8. Fusion Buys MegaPath For $71.5 Million

Fusion Telecommunications in May revealed a definitive agreement to purchase fellow telecom service provider MegaPath for $71.5 million. The merger will give the combined company a bigger direct and indirect sales team, and grow its channel community of partners.

Together, the two companies will be better positioned to compete in the crowded service provider market with Unified Communications as a Service, security, SD-WAN and cloud connectivity solutions, according to the companies.

7. Private Equity Firm Buys Horizon Telecom For $220 Million

Novacap, a Canadian private equity firm, revealed its intent to buy fiber infrastructure provider Horizon Telecom in a deal valued at north of $220 million in January.

The deal is aimed at helping Chillicothe, Ohio-based Horizon, a more than 100-year-old company, transition from a traditional telephone company to a regional leader in fiber-based services, Novacap said. Horizon today has more than 4,300 route miles and close to 550,000 fiber miles with over 1,600 on-net locations and 16,600 near-net buildings. Novacap closed the acquisition in June.

6. Globalstar, Fiberlight Merge In $1.65 Billion Deal

Satellite communications provider Globalstar revealed plans in April to come together with telecom network provider FiberLight in a $1.65 billion deal that would combine satellite, wireless and fixed broadband assets.

The merger of the two companies also includes investment firm Thermo Acquisitions because it was led by Jay Monroe, GlobalStar's chairman and CEO, who also is the controlling shareholder of Thermo Acquisitions, which backs FiberLight. The new entity is called Thermo Companies, and offers global wireless spectrum assets.

5. Verizon Closes Straight Path Deal For $3.1 Billion

After a back-and-forth, monthlong bidding battle with competing carrier AT&T, Verizon completed its purchase of wireless spectrum holder Straight Path Communications for $3.1 billion in an all-stock transaction .

Verizon, based in Basking Ridge, N.J., said the deal gives it valuable millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum licenses that cover the entire U.S., including within the top 40 markets. Straight Path's hard-to-come-by 39GHz and 28GHz wireless spectrum licenses can be used to develop 5G networks, which was why the provider was appealing to both AT&T and Verizon as the two providers aggressively build out their next-generation networks.

4. T-Mobile Plans To Buy Sprint For $26.5 Billion

T-Mobile and Sprint, the third and fourth biggest wireless providers in the U.S. respectively, are plotting their third merger attempt . The latest merger on the table values Sprint at $26 billion and T-Mobile at $55 billion without debt. T-Mobile will be the parent company and if the deal is approved, the combined company would be run by T-Mobile's current CEO, John Legere.

Sprint and T-Mobile attempted to merge in 2014 but ultimately dropped plans because of concerns around regulatory opposition from a then Democrat-led FCC. The two companies also tried to come together in 2017 under the now Republican-led FCC, but failed at the time because of disagreement over ownership of a combined T-Mobile/Sprint entity.

3. Comcast Enters Bidding War Over U.K. TV Provider Sky, Currently Valued At $32.5 Billion

Comcast has found itself in its second bidding war of the year so far, and this time, the cable provider is tussling over British media and TV provider Sky PLC.

Comcast is going up against 21st Century Fox -- the very same business unit it's also trying to acquire -- for Sky's media content. 21st Century Fox upped its bid in July to $32.5 billion, beating out Comcast's offer of $30.7 billion. Comcast is expected to reveal a counterbid of its own soon.

2. Comcast Fights Over 21st Century Fox, Currently Valued At $71.3 Billion

Comcast is currently embroiled in a battle over who will get to own Fox's entertainment arm, 21st Century Fox, and the cable giant is facing off with Disney.

Disney originally offered to acquire 21st Century Fox in December 2017, and was then bested by Comcast with an all-cash offer of $65 billion in May. The stakes keep getting higher as Disney in July countered with a $71.3 billion offer for most of Fox's content assets in a deal that is expected to be voted on by shareholders on July 27. Comcast, in the meantime, is reportedly planning its next counterbid.

1. AT&T Closes $85.4 Billion Time Warner Acquisition

In perhaps the most high-profile tech merger of the year, AT&T finally closed its acquisition of Time Warner for $85.4 billion following a long legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department.

AT&T originally announced its intent to acquire media giant Time Warner in October 2016 and faced a lawsuit from the Justice Department, which attempted to block the merger in 2017. After winning its case in court in June, the Dallas-based carrier closed the transaction two days later, which gave AT&T Time Warner's valuable content assets, such as HBO and CNN.

The first major tech acquisition to face opposition from the Republican-led Justice Department, the deal could lay the groundwork for more merger and acquisition activity in the telecom industry.