AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says T-Mobile customers can expect an iPhone (eventually) and that a merger wouldn't hurt the current "fiercely competitive" market.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is disputing accusations from competitors
and some analysts that his company's $39 billion bid to buy rival T-Mobile will
hinder a wireless market that he describes as "fiercely competitive."
an interview published April 4 by USA Today
Stephenson offered some answers, and more hints at answers, to a number of
looming questions regarding the proposed T-Mobile deal. Writer David Lieberman
gave Stephenson a proper grilling, but pulled very few straightforward answers
from the politician-smooth executive. One of the hard facts however, is that in
time, T-Mobile customers can expect access to an Apple iPhone.
course. If you're a T-Mobile customer, that's one of the great advantages. The
handset selection that AT&T offers would become available to T-Mobile
customers," Stephenson said, in response to whether "all of the
AT&T handsets" would be available to T-Mobile customers once the deal
already facing a barrage of questions and concerns from subscribers, recently posted
a note on its Website
, reminding customers that it is for now an
acquisition is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months,"
states the note. "We do not offer the iPhone. We offer cutting-edge
devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and, coming soon, our new Sidekick 4G."
T-Mobile's status as an independent company, Stephenson said he envisions that
it will stay that way.
will continue to operate their business exactly like they have," he told
USA Today. "They market directly against AT&T. I envision them to
continue marketing against AT&T in the marketplace."
that T-Mobile customers, who have enjoyed some of the lowest
rates in the industry, can expect a price bump once the company is folded into
AT&T, but Stephenson slipped and slided his away around the question,
saying a price bump would "defy history," as pricing in the industry
has been coming down over the last 10 years. When pressed by Lieberman, who
asked whether Stephenson was willing to make a commitment to T-Mobile customers
that their fees wouldn't jump, Stephenson didn't quite say "I do."
have a history, when we acquire one of these companies, we map their rate plans
into AT&T," he said. "So if somebody chooses to stay on that rate plan,
those rate plans are available."
the talk will be moot, should the deal - which is expected to require a
number of concessions from AT&T, including the divestment of portions of
the T-Mobile spectrum, which small-fish Sprint is expected to gobble up - not
get the necessary approval from federal regulators. Stephenson, however,
appeared confident that it will, building an argument about the importance of
AT&T being able to effectively compete in the wireless market of five years
from now, and shooting down suggestions that the loss of one carrier would make
for a less competitive marketplace.
18 of the top 20 markets, customers have five carriers to choose from,
Stephenson said, suggesting that by its very existence-rather than whether it's
able to offer the most popular handsets-a rival carrier would continue to be
competitive with a combined AT&T-T-Mobile. "It's a fiercely
competitive market today. It will be a fiercely competitive market after this
deal is done," he said.
answered that the Federal Communications Committee - which presumably
considered a lot of data - "last year, for the first time, did not
conclude that the market is competitive."
responded, "We would obviously take exception to that. I think the data
would argue that that's not the case. When the average customer has a choice of
five different providers, that's a very competitive market."
executives have argued
that the merger would undo three decades' worth of
action by the federal government, which is expected to weigh the matter
carefully. FCC member Michael Copps, in
an interview on C-Span's "The Communicators" program
suggested he was doubtful that the deal - which would put AT&T and Verizon
in control of 70 percent of the wireless market - would leave a very
of the FCC will need ask themselves - if the merger is approved - what
"residue of competition" would be left, he said. Even with
concessions, Copps said, he wondered if it was worth putting so much energy
into a deal that, in the end, many would still find only "minimally
that the kind of telecommunications market we ought to be working for?" he
Americans, more so than the carriers, will make their voices heard about
whether they think so.