ATandT Hasn't Made Promises to T-Mobile Customers

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-04-21 Print this article Print

The primary innovations during AT&T's former life were a slow drift to electronic switching (versus crossbar switches) and the introduction of Touch-Tone dialing, for which it charged extra-even though it didn't actually cost the company more to deliver.

While Sprint expresses confidence that the FCC will reject the acquisition outright, others don't share that feeling. AT&T, meanwhile, disputes the claim that dividing 80 percent of the U.S. wireless market between two companies doesn't create a duopoly. According to a statement to Reuters, AT&T's vice president of regulatory affairs, Joan Marsh, said, "It's absolutely inaccurate to say this is a duopoly." However, Marsh didn't offer a different definition of what it means to divide the market into two major pieces.

As has become clear from the material filed with the FCC today, AT&T is putting its proposed acquisition in the best possible light so that it can retain the customers that T-Mobile has, as well as to dampen opposition when the FCC starts to receive comments and hold hearings. However, the filings are short on specifics as to how these claims by AT&T would be carried out. Marsh indirectly admits in her comments that there would be a reduction in T-Mobile's workforce by saying that such things are usually handled by attrition.

It's pretty clear that it's the T-Mobile employees who would suffer from the attrition. Likewise, the claims that T-Mobile rates would stay the same don't mention what happens when T-Mobile's sort-of-unlimited 3G data plan collides with AT&T's limited data plan. Will it apply only on T-Mobile's original network-the one that AT&T plans to dismantle so it can build LTE? Or will it apply to T-Mobile customers until they get a new phone requiring a data plan?

AT&T has made a lot of promises to the FCC regarding T-Mobile's customers. However, the company has yet to promise those same customers anything. While the FCC can extract a pound of flesh for the price of approving this merger by requiring divestitures, it's hard to see how this can lessen the blow to T-Mobile's customers, or to Sprint, which stands to suffer the most as a small company under the feet of giants.

"This proposed takeover cannot be fixed with conditions or divestitures," McCann said in her statement. "We believe the facts, and the law dictates that this transaction must be blocked." McCann said that the proposed buyout was not in the interests of the American people.


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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