Regional phone and business network services operator CenturyLink will acquire fiber-optic network provider Level 3 Communications — one of the world’s biggest internet backbone providers — for $25 billion in cash and stock.

The deal inclusive of debt is worth $34 billion. Under the terms of the transaction, CenturyLink shareholders will own 51% and Level 3 shareholders will own 49% of the combined company.

With the deal, CenturyLink will expand its network with Level 3’s 200,000 route miles of fiber, including 64,000 route miles in 350 metropolitan areas and 33,000 undersea route miles connecting multiple continents. CenturyLink already owns and operates a 250,000-route-mile U.S. fiber network and a 300,000-route-mile international transport network.

CenturyLink is doubling down on massive network pipes as bigger rival AT&T seeks to transform its business by bulldozing into the media and entertainment sector with the proposed $85 billion takeover of Time Warner.

For CenturyLink, the Level 3 deal fortifies its strategy of catering to business customers across the globe, as the telco’s legacy consumer phone segment has continued to shrink.

“The digital economy relies on broadband connectivity, and together with Level 3 we will have one of the most robust fiber network and high-speed data services companies in the world,” CenturyLink president and CEO Glen Post said in announcing the deal.

The merged company will be based in Monroe, La., at CenturyLink’s current headquarters, but will maintain a “significant presence” in Colorado and the Denver metro area. After the deal closes Post will continue to serve as CEO and president and Sunit Patel, executive VP and CFO of Level 3, will serve as CFO of the combined company.

The companies expect to close the deal by the end of third quarter 2017, pending regulatory approvals. CenturyLink and Level 3 anticipate $975 million in annual run-rate cash synergies, primarily from layoffs and the elimination of redundant functions, systems consolidation, and better operational and capital efficiencies.