AT&T + T-Mobile USA?

A couple of days have passed now since AT&T’s industry-changing announcement.

Sprint’s official position is clear:

The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile USA, if approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), would alter dramatically the structure of the communications industry.

AT&T and Verizon are already by far the largest wireless providers. A combined AT&T and T-Mobile would be almost three times the size of Sprint, the third largest wireless competitor. If approved, the merger would result in a wireless industry dominated overwhelmingly by two vertically-integrated companies that control almost 80 percent of the U.S. wireless post-paid market, as well as the availability and price of key inputs such as backhaul and access needed by other wireless companies to compete.

The DOJ and the FCC must decide if this transaction is in the best interest of consumers and the

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U.S. economy overall, and determine if innovation and robust competition would be impacted adversely and by this dramatic change in the structure of the industry.

I won’t comment further, but I’m curious what others think. Feel free to leave your comments.

16 Responses to “AT&T + T-Mobile USA?”

  1. Dss says:

    I really don’t see how this affects sprint at all.
    AT&T has 94mill subscribers now
    Verizon has like 87mill
    Sprint has less than 50mill
    T-mobile has 34mill

    So now:
    AT&T has 94+34mill subscribers
    Verizon has like 87mill
    Sprint has less than 50mill

    Sprint is still in 3rd place. Nobody is rushing over to AT&T because they have more subscribers now. AT&T and T-mobile have the 2 worst quality networks and the mass iPhone swarms know it. This to me seems like a completely transparent move as far as Sprint is concerned. You are still 3rd.. Just work on pushing good phones like the Evo and Evo 3d and compete that way. This merger is business as usual for Sprint

  2. Sandyg says:

    @DSS it would be simple..
    1)CDMA manufacturers starts to decline after few years.
    2) htc approaches att and verizon and gives discounts to those companies and sprint has to pay more to get discounts.
    3) what if att/verizon charge more for sprint while roaming.

  3. Even in AT&Ts presentation on the ADVANTAGES of them buying their only national GSM competitor – the only national company underpricing them – they talk a lot about sucking more money out of T-Mobile’s customers than T-Mobile does.

    Look for example at slide 24 of their presentation…
    http://www.att.com/Common/about_us/pdf/INV_PRES_3-21-11_FINAL.pdf

    They list five big “Opportunities” to improve performance levels:

    “Improve performance levels across the business:
    #1 Further Improve the Customer Experience
    #2 Grow ARPU
    #3 Reduce Churn
    #4 Expand Margins
    #5 Seize New Opportunities”

    Let’s look at those one at a time, OK?

    #1 If a large company with the worst customer service ratings and highest prices among nationwide carriers buys the small company with the best customer service ratings and lowest prices among nationwide carriers, do you really think the “customer experience” is going to improve? Really?

    #2 Grow ARPU. That one is pretty obvious to anyone in the industry, but maybe not to the customers – yet.

    The T-Mob gets an average of $12.80 from each subscriber every month, AT&T gets $17.50 from theirs every month. We do understand that “growing the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User)” simply means charging T-Mob customers more per month to bring them in line with AT&T’s higher monthly rates once AT&T buys their ONLY low cost national GSM competitor, right?

    Moving on to #3, reduce churn. If one eliminates the only other national GSM carrier, one immediately reduces churn drastically since there is no “other” national carrier one’s wireless devices will work on.

    #4 Expand margins simply means increase profits – boils down to charging the customers more while reducing the actual cost of doing business, doesn’t it?

    #5 Uh, simply nice sounding words.

    While there some potential advantages to the merger for the customers (eliminating dual builds of GSM networks in the same market areas, but a single coordinated coverage, giving more efficient use of available bandwidth*), the five things listed above from AT&T’s slide 24 all seem to boil down to sucking more money out of the ex-T-Mob customers.

    This is just one tiny sliver of the vision of what’s coming, there is much more to look at from many directions, and very, very little of it is good for the CUSTOMERS, but I promised myself to keep this short, and I’m already past my self imposed limit.

    AT&T should NOT be allowed to buy up their only national GSM competition. Something needs to be done, but that is not it.

    Take care,
    Tom

    * The current split of the US Wireless market into incompatible walled gardens with different coding methods and different frequencies so that there are multiple, redundant, non-sharable build-outs in each market area is the fault of the FCC’s original plan to let several different network types compete to see which was best, and for that best to take over the entire market, while failing to set a deadline of when that must happen. Now the US has customers in every market that cannot use the majority of towers in that market. What a waste. Things like that really bother engineers. *sigh*

  4. Tracy says:

    Well, being that the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger was approved, and the Comcast/Universal NBC merger approved, I’m pretty sure the AT&T and T-Mobile merger will also be approved. But I actually think it provides Sprint the opportunity to reposition itself in the market.

    Since Android is the fastest growing operating system, and Sprint has the most reasonable rates and a great network, I think there is a real opportunity in positioning itself as the “Southwest Airlines” of the mobile industry. That is to say that one gets everything that the bigger providers carry, only at a better value, with no “fine print” (capped/throttled data, etc.).

    I know that advertising/marketing is the first thing to get cut, however, as a marketer, I believe that Sprint has to find ways (through sponsorships, digital, etc.) to make itself more relevant with especially young folks buying smartphones.

    I own the Evo and I love it. Even my iPhone-owning friends are amazed when they do a side-by-side comparison. But the Evo TV commercial with the quotes just doesn’t resonate (boring!). The Evo line is leading Sprint’s charge, so the advertising has to be spot on.

  5. KajeX says:

    AT&T is not competitive at all in terms of pricing, but T-Mobile is. This is going to make cell phone companies a lot less competitive. I guess this is good news for Sprint, as it will have the best pricing by far if AT&T gets rid of the T-Mobile rate plans.

  6. Ken Rowland says:

    Post AT&T divestiture, circa 1987 advertising sales in the yellow pages of the then AT&T, and Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), NE Tel, NY Tel, Bell Atlantic, etc was a $20 billion+ annual (monthly billed) industry. In those days, collectively if a small business person or company advertising in their ‘Directive’ focused RBOC yellow pages advertising failed to stay current on their yellow pages advertising bill (bill monthly to their telephone number) their telephone was disconnected, effectively shutting down the business. Interestingly, today, the telephony and communications industry has both ‘flattened’ and matured into an exponential ubiquity; digitally mobilized. AT&T and Verizon (NE Tel & NY Tel to NYNEX/BellAtlantic, et al, to Verizon) are still MA and PA Bell. The phone isn’t on the wall, it’s in everyone’s pocket. The FCC must request societal givebacks from these classic rollups to level all playing field(s), put a etelephoneTABsmartPOD in everyone’s ‘personal-space’, and for pennies, and do so before MA & PA Bell take the electric car keys away, and we’re ALL grounded from our mobility. Remember all of the above are now inside the neural plasticity of a CORPORATE brain. Try to have a ‘reality’ conversation with it. Best regards, Ken

  7. Tracy says:

    Did just see this new Sprint commercial last night after posting my comment: http://bit.ly/fVzvRl However, I think the CEO spots don’t really resonate after the whole auto industry meltdown and the GM CEO talking head commercials. Here is what GM’s CEO said: http://bit.ly/eDFaF1, but this is what the people heard: http://bit.ly/eoSvd4 It’s much more fun watching this kind of ad that spoofs the “fine print” than watching a CEO talking head: http://bit.ly/i4xpGx I think Sprint has to be less conservative in its advertising in trying to reach the smartphone generation.

  8. Tom Rollins says:

    To me, T-mobile represented “freedom of choice” (an old fast food slogan).
    Folks that wanted an iPhone and didn’t want a data plan could unlock their iPhone and put it on a T-mobile prepaid plan.

    It seems the days of being able to select a phone and a plan with the service you want are dying. It’s not the end of the world, people adapt.

    Sprint could look at this as an opportunity, and start offering a freedom of choice for people. ie, Let people activate any phone they buy from wherever (sprint, ebay, etc) on a plan that fits their needs (data or no, text or no) would be good.

    Even better, sprint could let folks activate non sprint phones (like verizon iPhone) on a sprint plan.

    Sprint could do well in this environment by adapting to the changing landscape and create an environment and service that folks would love.

  9. Mr. Rollins, two or three years ago both Sprint and Verizon promised they would allow “compatible devices” that were branded with other logos into their walled gardens, but neither company followed through on that promise.

    Why shouldn’t I be able to buy a fully compatible Palm/HP Pre, for example, directly from Palm/HP and turn it up on my Sprint plan? (If I’m on one of the GSM carriers I can do that, but the CDMA carriers refuse to let that happen, even if they sell the identical device for use on their network.)

    If this AT&T&T Mobile merger happens (I have little doubt it will, look at recent mergers such as Comcast/Universal/NBC…), Sprint will need to fight like a cornered animal with everything it has to prevent being absorbed by Big Red. We who are loyal Sprint customers are often with Sprint because we specifically do not want to be with Verizon, and would not be happy with such a happening.

    There is, quite honestly, little enough honest competition in the US cellular market as it is, reducing the number of national players from 4 to 3 is not going to be good for the customers, and will likely foretell a near-future reduction to two. Personally I don’t want to see that happen.

    Sprint has openly said they will fight the AT&T&T Mobile merger. I hope they do, I hope they fight hard, and I hope they win.

    I also hope Sprint had a “plan” to improve it’s market position both short term and long term. If nothing else I hope Sprint becomes more open with it’s customers. Your customers are not your enemy – we are on the same side – the better Sprint does, the better our service and our future with the company.

    All I, and most customers, can do is watch as the leviathans fight it out and decide our fate.

    Good luck, Sprint! Fight the good fight!

    Tom

  10. WEMGuy says:

    Bottom Line: At some point Sprint has to become profitable; they can’t keep losing money every year.

    The AT&T T-Mobile acquisition will allow Sprint to raise prices while still maintaining a low-price leader position in the market.

    Sprint’s plan to transform their network to multi-modal towers will cost billions to complete but should eventually save billions more in operating costs. Having to operate separate networks today is a tremendous cost disadvantage. A question will be, how much will this operating cost reduction be offset by a decrease in purchasing power.

    Sprint’s mountain of spectrum availability may end up being the primary driver of a Big Red acquisition of Sprint. I hope Sprint can make it on its own, but only time will tell.

  11. PaulH says:

    What a great topic and comments.

    On one hand, I see AT&T’s purchase of T-mo as analogous to Sprint’s buyout of Nextel in that there will be a mass exodus of T-Mobile post-paid customers as things at T-mo start to get done the AT&T way. (Hopefully for everyone concerned, my analogy won’t go further than that in reality.) In this case, it could be very good for Sprint in the short term if they are able to successfully market to those former T-mo customers.

    On the other hand, though, I see that in the long run the lack of competition could allow the larger companies to set prices and act in monopolistic ways. I wish that I could see the SWA analogy that another commenter made come true. But the difference is that SWA has no debt and has a lot of flexibility in how it operates. Sprint has, in my opinion, acquired a nearly fatal level of debt. Perhaps the continuing improvement in profits combined with an influx of former T-mo customers will help return Sprint to profitability in the short term, but the debt that they have will limit their ability to sustain the fight.

    So, that being said, I am glad that Sprint intends to fight the AT&T merger, and I hope they use every reasonable resource to that end. If they lose, however, perhaps they need to go talk to their cousin, Verizon, about a new unholy union to level the playing field in their direction.

  12. Lucas says:

    1)I love the comments that state that AT&T is a higher priced carrier! Anyone who thinks that AT&T is more than 10% higher than Sprint’s costs haven’t looked recently. Especially with the $10 smart phone add on, Sprint has quickly ascented to AT&T pricing levels.

    2) Sprint should keep thier nose out of this. They can’t play the woah is me card when they have been hemmoraging customers for years since the Nextel merger. Granted, the changes they have made which caused customer churn will ultimately help the company in the long run, they still can’t complain that they are little players in the game….they chose to be that way.

    3) AT&T has little to NO interest in 35 mil T-Mo customers. That’s icing on the cake to them. They are mainly interested in the spectrum liscences that TMO has so that AT&T can build out thier LTE network and finally compete with Verizon coverage wise.

  13. Neal says:

    This is likely the wrong place to post/ask this, but I’m not sure where else to do it. Russ, I’m on a legacy free & clear family plan with pretty much everything I want (6 PM N&W, unlimited net/texts, discounts), but I’m at my wit’s end with this garbage Touch Pro 2. It is an absolutely junk phone, and I can’t stand it anymore. I’m this close to switching carriers, and just wanted to know if there was anything in the way or rumor, speculation, or perhaps even fact about legacy plan holders to be able to use decent phones. What irks me even more is that SERO plan holders are able to pay a bit more to use the nicer phones, yet that’s not an option for us. I’d be willing to pay $10/line/month to use a nicer phone. Anything like that in the works? If no, what happens when the already antiquated TP2 goes away?

  14. Russ says:

    Neal – nothing that I’ve heard.

  15. PaulH says:

    Sorry, Russ. I hadn’t checked on the comments here for a while and just saw Lucas’s post. I feel the need to respond to his first point.

    @Lucas – How much you WILL save on Sprint over ATT is very much a function of what plan you are on, and what services you use. I am on a Sprint Family Data Share 1500 plan with 4 lines. I also receive a 25% discount. I have 4 premium smartphones on those 4 lines. They are grandfathered, so I don’t pay the extra $10/mo…yet. But, I do make use of things like unlimited text, free Sprint navigation, and Sprint TV. All of those services cost extra on ATT, adding a substantial amount to the monthly cost of the bill. This is not to mention that on ATT I have to buy a separate data plan for each line since they are all those pesky smartphones.

    So, to compare fairly between the two plans I would need with each company, including a 20% discount I can get with ATT, I don’t save 10%, I save over 50%. Even if I end up paying that extra $40/mo for those smartphones, I still come out ahead by a large margin.

    Now, I will grant you that if you only have 1 line, the difference is less appreciable, but you WILL save, nonetheless.

    Russ, I apologize for taking up an argument on your blog. But I thought this needed an answer.

    As always, God Bless.

    -Paul

  16. Russ says:

    Thanks PaulH.

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