As I’ve written before, in a U.S. mobile industry dominated by mega-carriers, it’s becoming harder and harder for smaller regional carriers to survive. Cincinnati Bell became the latest case in point on Monday, announcing it is exiting the wireless business and selling off its spectrum to Verizon for $210 million.
As you might expect by its name Cincinnati Bell operates in southwestern Ohio, where it’s the incumbent telephone company offering phone, DSL, IPTV, fiber broadband and even electrical utility services to Cincinnati and its environs. Its wireless operations extend beyond its traditional wireline footprint into northwestern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana.
Cincinnati Bell is still one of the dominant mobile providers in its home territory but its wireless business has definitely seen better days. In its heyday in 2007 and 2008 it had close to 600,000 customers. It ended 2013 with 340,000 subscribers.
“It has become economically challenging for us to invest in our wireless business at the levels necessary to deliver best-in-class service to our customers,” Cincinnati Bell CEO and President Ted Torbeck said in a statement.
Verizon is buying the regional carrier’s spectrum because it has little use for its networks. While Verizon is the country’s largest CDMA operator, Cincinnati Bell uses the competing GSM standard for voice and HSPA for data services. Like so many of the regional carrier acquisitions we’ve seen in the last year — T-Mobile buying MetroPCS, AT&T buying Leap Wireless — this deal is about airwaves, not network assets or customers.
Cincinnati Bell’s mobile customers won’t have to scramble to find a new carrier – at least not yet. The companies don’t expect the deal to close until the second half of the year, and Cincinnati Bell said it would continue to offer service to its customers for 8 to 12 months after the deal’s signing.