Mar 11, 2022 - Economy

The telecom deals frenzy

Illustration of a cell phone tower sending out dollar sign signals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The race to 5G is forcing the world's biggest telecom giants to consolidate.

Why it matters: 5G is all about scale. When companies combine, they have more resources and capital to bid on spectrum and build out tools to get ahead.

The big picture: Telecom consolidation is a global phenomenon.

  • In Australia, TPG and Vodafone Australia merged in July 2020.
  • In Canada, Rogers and Shaw announced they were merging in March 2021 and are undergoing regulatory approval.
  • In Europe, BT bought EE from Deutsche Telekom and Orange in 2016. Hutchison had tried to buy O2 from Telefónica and merge it with Three, but it was blocked in 2016 by the European Union. O2 merged with Virgin Media last year.
  • And there's more to come. Vodafone and Iliad are in talks to combine in Italy, Reuters reported, and Bloomberg reported Vodafone recently explored purchasing Three UK.

Driving the news: Orange and Masmovil said this week they entered exclusive talks to merge their operations in Spain at a valuation of €19.6 billion ($21.7 billion).

  • The companies said the merger helps them "gain the necessary scale and efficiency to undertake an ambitious and sustainable expansion of its FTTH [fiber to the home] and 5G networks."

Catch up quick: In the U.S., T-Mobile got ahead in the 5G race by acquiring Sprint in 2020.

  • "We win in this business because of the capacity that we can generate on this network," Neville Ray, president of technology of T-Mobile U.S., said at the Morgan Stanley TMT conference Wednesday.
  • Ray said the capacity T-Mobile could build over a five-year period is 14 times what it would be without Sprint — a statistic he has previously touted.
  • “In 5G, it is T-Mobile that looks poised to lead," MoffettNathanson senior analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a research note last year, citing T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum scale, which came as a result of the merger.

This story originally appeared in Axios Pro's new Media Deals newsletter. Start your free trial.

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