Purpose The purpose of this study is to analyse the ways in which mobile operators in the USA that previously presented themselves as providers of essentially a single service have had to adapt to the requirements of a multi-play world that includes mobile and fixed-wire voice, broadband internet and Pay-TV. Design/methodology/approach The approach is empirical in its entirety and based upon a historical review of the actions of (primarily) the nationwide mobile operators in the USA. Account is taken of the actions of companies in what were historically separate spheres of business such as cable and satellite. Findings It can be seen that there has been a great deal of restructuring activity in the US mobile sector during the past decade driven by a number of factors such as the need to achieve scale and to provide high-date-rate transmission. However, in very recent times, the main driving force has been the need to gear up for the provision of multi-play services. Research limitations/implications The next few years will see an acceleration of restructuring activity as previously independent companies link up voluntarily or via takeovers. Social implications It can be argued that it is the evolving use of smartphones, especially among those aged under 30, that is a key reason why mobile operators are having to change their business models, rather than the reverse. Originality/value Regulators, in particular, appear to be stuck in a world in which different segments of the world of telecommunications continue to plough independent furrows. However, multi-play is the future of the sector and there has not so far been much attention paid to this phenomenon.