Telecoms in a Changing Arena

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jul. 16, 2012 12:00 am  

It's been a bumpy ride for local exchange carriers since the cellphone became ubiquitous.

(Click here for our list of largest local exchange carriers. Spreadsheets of local exchange carriers and interexchange carriers are also available.)

In 2001, Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. of Little Rock reigned supreme with $568 million in Arkansas-generated revenue and almost a million landlines in operation.

A decade later, AT&T Corp. of San Antonio holds what was once Southwestern Bell's empire, but in a diminished form. The company's 2011 revenue was $353 million and it reported 475,105 total lines, fewer than half of the 2001 count.

Most of the loss, however, occurred in residential lines. Southwestern Bell served 632,185 residential lines in 2001, and AT&T served 242,571 in 2011. The number of business lines claimed in its annual report to the Arkansas Public Service Commission decreased from 274,363 to 184,691.

The next largest company, CenturyLink of Monroe, La., had 2001 revenue of $138 million and 271,371 lines. Last year, it reported $84 million in revenue and 156,541 lines. Over the decade, its residential lines decreased from 209,849 to 112,899.

William Stuckey, president of Vantage Telecom LLC in Fort Smith, which does business as Newroads Telecom, competes with the big handlers like AT&T. Stuckey said the market is still competitive on the business end.

"We don't focus on the residential side, which is really where the shrinkage is," he said.

He said business landlines will eventually fade away, but Vantage's forays into high-speed Internet services will provide for that eventuality.

Vantage is working on "anything that doesn't necessarily require a physical connection," he said.

Meanwhile, he said, Vantage is concerned with reaching customers who otherwise might pick a bigger brand name like Cox or Windstream.

"We're kind of like David and Goliath," he said. "We focus on small businesses. We provide excellent handholding and support from Day One. It's proved to be a good business model for us. Some of the bigger guys choose not to be that support-intensive."



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