Wilson Electronics Buys zBoost for Cell Booster Supremacy

Published: 2014-03-05

Wilson Electronics has purchased competitor zBoost in an effort to consolidate the cell phone signal booster category. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but both brand names will stay intact while Wilson pursues a “dual-brand strategy.”

In an exclusive interview with CI‘s sister publication CE Pro, Wilson CEO Robert Van Buskirk outlined the strategy behind the acquisition, which officially took place in mid-January.

“The cell signal booster market is poised for tremendous growth and we recognize that industry consolidation is coming. In this case, it’s a good thing from our perspective. We have taken one of our competitors off the market and enhanced our own competencies and capabilities,” says Van Buskirk. For instance, zBoost has strong connections in the retail market that will be beneficial to acquire.

But most importantly, Van Buskirk says the acquisition allows St. George, Utah-based Wilson to pursue a “dual-brand strategy” and bring a “better/best product family” to the market. While the specific details of the niche strategy are still being worked out, Van Buskirk says the idea would be, perhaps, that zBoost become the value residential brand while Wilson’s product lines gravitate to be the premium brand for integrators.

“There are certain large retailers that are interested in carrying the Wilson line but they will not do unless they have a second brand they can offer to customers. This acquisition is the perfect solution because we can now bring two brands to them,” says Van Buskirk. Wilson also has a strong position in the mobile market with its Sleek product line.

International Market Wide Open

The purchase also sets up Wilson well to pursue an aggressive international growth strategy. Van Buskirk notes there about 400 million cell phone subscribers in North America compared to 6 billion subscribers worldwide. He says Asia will be the first market the company targets.

In terms of the dealer program, those details still have to shake out. Wilson’s Certified Installer program has been wildly successful, attracting more than 1,500 dealers in a short time. Those dealers will continue to have access to an exclusive high-end product line. There are no plans to discontinue the zBoost dealer program at this time, notes Van Buskirk.

zBoost, which was previously named Wi-Ex but changed its corporate name last year, has about 25 to 30 employees and is based in Atlanta. That “lean-and-mean” operation will stay in place, says Van Buskirk. The company outsourced its entire manufacturing and assembly to Mexico. ZBoost’s primary products are likely to be approved by the FCC in the coming weeks as part of the new federal guidelines for cell signal boosters that were recently extended to April 30. Wilson, by contrast, has 220 employees and does all its manufacturing and assembly in Utah. It has already had 13 SKUs approved by the FCC.

Since the companies are both privately held, details of the transaction were not released, but Van Buskirk teases that the combined resources of the two companies and the plans to pursue international markets will enable Wilson Electronics “to make a run at $100 million in revenues in 2014.”

Are more acquisitions in the future, especially since Wilson was acquired by deep-pocketed Sorenson Capital last year?

“We are still digesting this purchase,” says Van Buskirk, “but we never rule anything out.”


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