NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Telephony has always had an international character.
From the time I began covering the field in the early 1980s there was a race to seize international markets with undersea cables and satellites.
As the Internet expanded, both AT&T (T - Get Report) (then a long-distance company, now part of the former Southwestern Bell) and MCI (now part of Verizon Communications (VZ - Get Report)) owned the key core Internet Service Providers, or ISPs -- their digital lines defined the international Internet market.
All this has changed radically in the 21st century.The old landline cash cow was tapped dry. Enterprises from IBM (IBM - Get Report) to Google (GOOG - Get Report), which could fill lines with corporate and branded Internet traffic, picked up unused dark fiber to dominate the international backbones. The cash cows became wireless, serving the thin Internet clients known as smartphones with firehoses of bandwidth. But since these devices tend to move around, and the best customers are those whose phones move around the most, 2012 has also seen the industry make the first moves toward a grand global consolidation. Where the last decade was a story of local oligopolies, this decade will be about efforts to build global oligopolies that might take on the Internet core companies, like Google, on an even basis. It may have been U.S. regulators who set this off. After AT&T's effort to take over Deutsche Telekom's (DT) T-Mobile, America's fourth-largest carrier, for $39 billion, was rejected on anti-trust grounds, it became obvious that the only way to scale was geographically. Thus the Germans turned around and bought America's number-five carrier, MetroPCS,