6. C Spire

C Spire remains the sixth largest wireless network operator in the country.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Tell that to C Spire.

The Mississippi-based telco has been around for almost 30 years, but in the past few years has engineered a bit of a corporate renaissance, complete with a rebranding, a renewed focus on fiber and an impressive embrace of new wireless technologies.

Cellular South changed its corporate identity to C Spire in 2011, and shortly thereafter began an intensive buildout that today has netted the operator more than 6,000 miles of fiber infrastructure. Indeed, the company is now among the 25 largest providers of business fiber in the United States, and is one of the nation’s 1 Gbps fiber providers.

But C Spire’s fiber advancements pale in comparison to its wireless achievements. The privately held company remains the sixth largest wireless network operator in the country with an estimated 1 million subscribers, and appears to have largely resisted the M&A rush that overtook other smaller providers like Alltel. Moreover, C Spire has worked to ensure its wireless network, underpinned by an estimated 1,400 cell sites, remains at the head of the curve: The carrier recently announced it rolled out carrier aggregation using 2.5 GHz spectrum in 40 markets, which it said will enable users to access peak download speeds of 100 Mbps—up from typical speeds between 5 Mbps and 12 Mbps.

And that’s not all. C Spire has been testing 5G network technology, putting the small, regional operator alongside market heavyweights like AT&T and Verizon. C Spire expects to test speeds as it transmits HD video content from its fiber-based commercial television service, the company said. It’s part of the company’s ongoing efforts to bring the benefits of next-generation 5G and fixed wireless technology to consumers and businesses in its region, “all with the goal of helping solve a huge economic problem—how to efficiently and cost-effectively deploy fiber-based services in rural and underserved areas, which comprise the majority of our service area,” said Dave Miller, C Spire senior media relations manager.

The upshot: Amid widespread complaints that smaller telcos in more rural areas aren’t keeping pace, C Spire is proving otherwise thanks to a mix of both high-end wired and wireless technologies.

6. C Spire