Shifting Signals Create Uncertainty for Rural Broadband Consolidation

Jeff Johnston

March 6, 2024

Key Points

  • The cable and wireless industries have consolidated over the last 20-30 years to create scale and gain access to valuable nationwide spectrum. Observers are watching to see if history will repeat itself in a similar tech provider industry: the rural broadband market.
  • While scale will be important for future rural broadband consolidation, the industry’s unique aspects may prevent massive consolidation.
  • The industry is fragmented, which typically leads to consolidation when growth begins to slow. However, not all operators will be merger and acquisition (M&A) targets, especially cooperatively owned companies committed to their deep-rooted mission to serve their local communities.
  • Infrastructure funds and private equity sponsors will continue to play an important role in industry M&As, but recent headwinds from inflation, higher interest rates and labor shortages could cast a cloud over near-term activity.
  • Some level of consolidation is expected over the next 5-10 years, but it’s a question of when and how much.

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