On Tuesday, we learned that Sprint is no longer in talks with T-Mobile to purchase the fourth largest US carrier. Which means we still have two carriers at about 50 million subscribers and two with over 100 million subscribers. But how did we get to having just four major, nationwide carriers? Especially given all the others that have been bought up through the years. Well the folks over at GigaOM put together a nice infographic timeline for all four carriers. Although, it's important to note that the numbers for Verizon don't seem to be true. As the last number I heard (after the Q2 2014 earnings) were around 122 million, not 104 million. Which means Verizon is still number 1, with AT&T close behind at #2, then Sprint and T-Mobile pretty distant behind them at #3 and 4 respectively.
As you can see from the picture below, Verizon started first, followed by AT&T, and then Sprint. T-Mobile was actually formed from Western Wireless spinning off Voicestream in 2000. Which Verizon picked up Western Wireless shortly after they spun off Voicestream. I'd have to say the most interesting, and complicated history is Verizon. All the acquisitions and renames it went through over the past 35 years, is pretty crazy. AT&T also went through quite a bit of changes as well. Many of you may remember when AT&T got split up, only to get back together and become even bigger. In 2004, Cingular picked up AT&T Wireless, and in 2005 SBC bought AT&T – AT&T kept their name though – and in 2006, AT&T bought Bell South, including Cingular Wireless. So the whole breaking up AT&T didn't really do much, as they are still technically a monopoly, especially if they can get their hands on DirecTV. But then again, Verizon offers all the same services as AT&T.
Ever wonder how Sprint got two prepaid carriers? Well Nextel picked up Boost Mobile in 2003, then Sprint bought Nextel in 2005. In 2009, Sprint/Nextel bought Virgin Mobile USA. Pretty interesting to me. Check out the image below.