U.S. Carriers Are Running Out of Growth Options

It’s hard to grow in a saturated market, but despite 89 percent cell phone penetration in the U.S., AT&T managed to pull out some impressive revenue growth over the past three years, not because it has the iPhone but because it’s been buying other companies. We’ve written about AT&T’s dependence on the iPhone, but this chart from TeleGeography illustrating AT&T’s sales growth over the period — on par with service providers in countries where cell phone subscribers are still growing — is tied primarily to Ma Bell’s acquisitions.

The companies found in the lower part of the chart, which operate in saturated Western Europe markets, are a glimpse of the future for AT&T and even Verizon as U.S. companies run out of acquisition targets. The carriers hope that machine-to-machine communications will save them, but they’re still searching for the right business model as well as compelling applications. I suppose if times get too tough, there’s always Sprint.

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