T-Mobile’s recent acquisition of Sprint was primarily aimed at obtaining Sprint’s 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum to strengthen its 5G network. Unlike Verizon and AT&T, which focused on the short-range mmWave signals for their 5G networks, T-Mobile recognized that mid-band signals offer longer coverage distances, allowing more users to enjoy downlink speeds up to 10 times faster than nationwide 5G and LTE. This strategic move positioned T-Mobile as the leading 5G provider in the United States, prompting Verizon and AT&T to invest heavily in C-band spectrum to catch up.
However, T-Mobile’s CEO, Mike Sievert, has hinted at the possibility of another acquisition. USCellular, a rural wireless provider, has been put up for sale, presenting an opportunity for T-Mobile to acquire additional spectrum and other valuable assets in rural markets. Currently holding a 16.5% share of the rural wireless market, T-Mobile aims to increase this share to 20% by 2025.
While Verizon and AT&T concentrate on expanding their 5G networks in urban areas, T-Mobile can maintain its stronghold on rural customers. During the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology conference, Sievert expressed openness to speeding up T-Mobile’s rural strategy if the right opportunity arises. However, he emphasized that the hurdles for potential mergers and acquisitions could be substantial, including regulatory or financial challenges.
USCellular, with its 5 million customers across 21 states and 4,300 cell towers, has recently announced its exploration of strategic alternatives, indicating its willingness to be acquired. With a market capitalization of $3.56 billion, USCellular’s stock (USM) has seen significant growth this year, closing at $41.75 on Friday, representing a nearly 96% increase.
Overall, T-Mobile’s potential acquisition of USCellular could further enhance its presence in rural markets and strengthen its position as a dominant player in the 5G space.