03:04 PM

Cell Phone Provider Dobson May Be On The Block

Dobson has a customer base of 1.76 million subscribers over a mostly rural 17-state area.

Rural cell phone service provider Dobson Communications is the latest telecommunications firm to attract the attention of buyout managers, according to media reports Monday.

Dobson has a customer base of 1.76 million subscribers over a mostly rural 17-state area. The region has a population of more than 12.6 million.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Dobson has hired investment banking firm Morgan Stanley to advise it on its options. Dobson has not returned calls requesting comment on the buyout reports.

Like other mobile phone service providers serving rural markets, Dobson has been growing, but traditional mobile phone service providers have also been moving into Dobson's markets as virtually all traditional deployments are extended. At the same time, newer technologies like Wi-Fi and WiMax are moving into rural regions with WiMax poised to make big moves in that market in the coming months.

Dobson's service areas are widely scattered. Based in Oklahoma City, the firm services scattered regions that range from Alaska, the Midwest, the Southwest, and Upstate New York.

Dobson is just the latest object of equity affection by buyout firms targeting telecom firms. Traditionally, Dobson has financed its growth from within. In recent weeks Avaya and Alltel have been acquired by investor groups.

According to investment banking reports, Dobson has profitable roaming agreements with major cell phone providers like AT&T and T-Mobile.

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