The most important M&As of 2011

Top mergers and acquisitions 2011With Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) recently wrapping up its deal to acquire PAETEC, FierceTelecom's editors decided it might be a good time to take a look back at the merger and acquisitions that took place over the past year.

Much like the NFL season, 2011 saw a number of very diverse players making some surprising, but perhaps necessary moves throughout the year to expand their holdings.

Joining Windstream were a number of the largest incumbent and competitive service providers to make their own transformational deals. There are three that that stand out on the incumbent side: Verizon's acquisition of Terremark; CenturyLink's acquisition of Savvis; and Level 3's acquisition of Global Crossing.

These deals were transformational for several reasons. CenturyLink, for one, instantly enhanced its cloud capabilities, while Verizon gained a major foothold into the cloud and managed security space and Level 3 gained new VPN service capabilities not to mention an instant presence in Latin America.

It wasn't just the large carriers making acquisitions in 2011, either--smaller independent providers made buys as well, with most, just like the larger telcos, looking to bolster cloud and managed service portfolios to become more attractive to business customers.

A number of smaller independent telcos, such as HickoryTech (Nasdaq: HTCO), TDS (NYSE: TDS), Twin Valley Telephone and Warwick Valley Telephone (Nasdaq: WWVY), and competitive providers such as 8x8 (Nasdaq: EGHT), EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK), TelePacific and Zayo also bulked up their networks and service portfolios by acquiring other providers.

Outside of the service provider space, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) moved to beef up its network and service management technologies across its flagship platforms, including the CRS-3 core router, by acquiring the AXIOSS assets from OSS vendor Comptel. No less important was ADTRAN's (Nasdaq: ADTN) move to acquire Nokia Siemens Networks' wireline broadband unit, which immediately enhanced its global reach and professional service capabilities.

Each of the acquisitions chronicled in this feature are ranked according to dollar size of the deal.

While it can be easily argued that this consolidation is a necessary and inevitable ebb and flow of the telecom service provider industry, it's likely that this consolidation trend will continue right into 2012.--Sean

Level 3 acquires Global Crossing
CenturyLink acquires Savvis
Windstream purchases PAETEC
Verizon acquires Terremark,

wireline broadband unit

Zayo acquires 360networks
TDS purchases OneNeck
Cisco acquires Comptel's AXIOSS
Earthlink grabs Business Vitals
8x8 absorbs Contactual
Warwick Valley Telephone
acquires Alteva

TelePacific acquires TelWest,
Telekenex & OCiX

Twin Valley acquires ISG