PCIA 2011: AT&T/T-Mobile USA deal remains elusive

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DALLAS – Like many sectors in the mobile space, the tower industry is anxiously awaiting the eventual outcome of AT&T Inc.’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA Inc. A deal that most concede came out of left field, has since its announcement earlier this year swung to extremes in opinion as to whether it will be approved by government regulators.

During a panel discussion at this year’s event aptly titled “ATT-Mobile: Yes? No? Maybe.,” industry observers were on both sides of the board as to whether the deal was still on track for approval, though virtually all were less positive following the Department of Justice’s recent decision to file a lawsuit looking to block the transaction.

“Concessions will be a big deal,” noted Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR. “The DoJ is looking at a nationwide picture and not a market to market picture.”

One item many agreed on was that while Sprint Nextel Corp. has been a big opponent of the proposed deal, the carrier looks to have much to gain should the deal go through with divestiture requirements.

Speakers also seemed to agree that Sprint Nextel is set to take advantage of customer defections from T-Mobile USA as those customers are typically looking for greater value, a position that Sprint Nextel has managed to carve out for its operations.

“T-Mobile customers do not all of a sudden have more money if they are now AT&T customers,” noted Roger Entner, founder of ReCon Analytics.

In addition, with expected divestures, Sprint Nextel could be in line to acquire both spectrum assets and customers, though that could be problematic as those customers would need to be transitioned to new devices and Sprint Nextel is already known for having to fork over higher subsidies in order to retain customers.

Entner also made a clarification that if the deal does fail, the much talked about breakup fee AT&T would have to pay would in fact go to T-Mobile USA’s parent company Deutsche Telekom AG and not necessarily to its U.S. operations.

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Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
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Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”

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