Carrier Catchup: How The U.S. Telecom Titans Closed Out 2018

Making Moves

The country's largest carriers all finished out the year with a bang, as if the rest of 2018 wasn't busy enough. The telecom consolidation trend was alive and well as AT&T closed – and then went back to court for – its $84.5 billion Time Warner deal, and Sprint and T-Mobile tried to come together in a third merger attempt. At the same time, some carriers struggled with gaining traction in new areas of their businesses or announced job cuts for 2019.

From M&A activity, to business reorgs, to the introduction of brand-new services, here's what the biggest carriers in the U.S. were up to as 2018 came to an end.

AT&T Rolls Out 5G Device And Service

AT&T in December became "the first and only carrier" to offer a mobile 5G service and device over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network, according to the Dallas-based company. The latest service is available to both select consumers and businesses.

AT&T's standards-based mobile 5G network is now live in certain areas of 12 cities for consumers and select businesses, including; Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

During 2019, AT&T plans on deploying its mobile 5G service in parts of seven additional cities during the first half of 2019, including in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

CenturyLink Reveals Job Cuts, Holiday Bonus Cuts

Ahead of the holidays, CenturyLink announced that it is trimming its workforce by about 175 jobs in locations across the 16 states in the carrier's footprint.

The Monroe, La.-based provider also revealed that it had decided to discontinue holiday bonuses for its employees. A spokesperson for CenturyLink said that the decisions came as the carrier tries to remain cost-competitive and called the job cuts "voluntary separations" for select union-represented field operations employees.

CenturyLink wasn't the only carrier to announce job cuts this year. Competitor Verizon also revealed that 10,400 of its employees accepted buyouts as part of what it also is calling its “voluntary separation program."

Sprint, T-Mobile Win Security Approvals For Merger

T-Mobile and Sprint, the third and fourth largest carriers in the U.S., won backing for their $26.5 billion merger from two national security reviews in December, which further freed up the two companies to merge.

In December, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Defense Department, all gave the deal the go-ahead. That's because T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to not use Huawei equipment to run its network, and also vowed to lower prices for customers.

The two companies expect the deal, if it clears the rest of its regulatory hurdles, to close during the first half of 2019.

Verizon Ditches Oath

A week after disclosing that it will take a $4.6 billion goodwill impairment charge for Oath, Verizon's flailing business unit that includes its AOL and Yahoo assets, the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier killing off the Oath brand.

Verizon said it will be replacing the Oath brand with a rebranded and straightforward name: Verizon Media Group. The company said that the rebrand better aligns the media division as one of Verizon's core businesses. The name change will take effect on Jan. 8, right in time for CES 2019.