AT&T plans on acquiring for T-Mobile for $39 billion in cash and stock, a blockbuster announcement that’s left pundits and media scrambling to predict how the telecommunications landscape will change in months and years to come.
At least some T-Mobile customers, though, have a much simpler question: When can I get my hands on an Apple iPhone?
Fortunately, T-Mobile has decided to tackle that question head-on. “T-Mobile USA remains an independent company,” reads a note posted on the carrier’s Website. “The acquisition is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months. We do not offer the iPhone. We offer cutting-edge devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and, coming soon, our new Sidekick 4G.”
In other words, T-Mobile customers will need to wait at least a year, until AT&T completes its acquisition. Currently, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the only two U.S. carriers to offer the iPhone, although T-Mobile subscribers in Germany can obtain one of the bestselling devices.
The AT&T deal is a “clear positive” for Apple, according to a March 21 research note from Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White. “The company would gain access to T-Mobile’s 34 million subscriber base, versus the 96 million subscribers at AT&T in 4Q10,” he wrote. “Keep in mind, AT&T activated 4.1 million iPhones during 4Q10.”
That being said, AT&T could face some difficulties in obtaining government approval for the deal. During a March 21 call with analysts and media, executives from the carrier stressed that rivals in the wireless arena, including Verizon and Sprint, would keep things fiercely competitive.
“Wireless competition will continue to flourish,” read a slide from the PowerPoint deck accompanying the call.
The Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice will both examine whether the acquisition violates antitrust regulations. With an eye toward the government, AT&T also argued that the transaction “is in public interest,” helping ease impending spectrum shortages, expanding LTE (Long-Term Evolution) to more of the American population, and improving the quality of voice and data service.
Nonetheless, at least one of AT&T’s rivals is already painting the acquisition as a negative for competition.
“A combined AT&T and T-Mobile would be almost three times the size of Sprint, the third-largest wireless competitor,” read a March 20 statement from Sprint, as reprinted on AllThingsD. “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.”
Some analysts also appear leery of the acquisition’s affect on wireless competition.
“The move takes out a key pricing competitor to AT&T, gives access to some key 4G technologies from T-Mobile, and clearly solidified AT&T in the lead to the U.S. market,” Ray Wang, principal analyst for Constellation Research, wrote in a March 21 e-mail to eWEEK. “The bottom line: AT&T wins, customers lose.”