Verizon Wireless Buys Surewest's Wireless Biz. Who's Next?

Verizon Wireless has purchased the tiny (50,000 subs) wireless division of Surewest Communications (SURW), a Roseville, Calif.-based telco, for $69 million.

This obviously isn’t a needle-mover for Verizon Wireless, which has 64 million subs and annual revenues of $38 billion. But expect to see more of these deals, albeit on a larger scale, from all the big wireless players. Last year, Verizon paid $2.67 billion for Rural Cellular Corporation, and AT&T (T) paid $2.8 billion for Dobson Communications, which had 1.7 million subs. We’ve long thought that NJ-based Centennial Communications (CYCL, market cap $567.89M), which offers service in six states and Puerto Rico, could be picked up next.

It’s not just that the big guys think they’re better off buying than building. In many cases they can’t build out their networks because they don’t own enough spectrum in a given area — so acquisitions are the only way to go. And there are still plenty of little fish to swallow up: Wireless Advisor lists more than 350 small-time U.S. wireless carriers.

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