Wireless Consolidation Looming?

As wireless users and industry experts voice mixed reactions to reports of a possible merger between Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless, most agree that carrier consolidation is inevitable.

While wireless industry experts and customers have mixed feelings about the latest wireless carrier merger reports, most agree that carrier consolidation is inevitable.

Cingular Wireless LLC has offered more than $27 billion to buy AT&T Wireless Services Inc., according to the Associated Press and several other published reports. Were such a merger to happen, the combined company would create the nations largest wireless carrier, surpassing Verizon Wireless. Officials at AT&T in Redmond, Wash., and Cingular in Atlanta declined to comment last week, but customers are being told not to worry.

"I met with AT&T and inquired about these reports, and they dont seem too concerned at this time," said John Halamka, CIO of Caregroup Heath Systems, a network of Boston-area hospitals that uses AT&T Wireless as its primary wireless carrier. "However, it does seem that there will be a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the wireless market over the next few years, simply because there are too many vendors currently, all building out separate networks."

Other customers agree, but that doesnt stop them from employing several carriers at the same time.

"We use Sprint [PCS], Verizon and T-Mobile [U.S.A. Inc.]," said Jorge Abellas-Martin, CIO of Arnold Worldwide, in Boston, and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. "Sprint gives us the best deals, Verizon the best coverage and T-Mobile for international service."

Service integrators report that mixing and matching wireless services makes it unnecessarily difficult to design enterprisewide solutions for customers.

"Yeah, I hate that," said Craig Miller, chief technology officer of Dimension Data North America, a technology services company in Reston, Va. "It makes money for guys like us who have to integrate all these things, but its a suboptimal solution. It makes the decision complex, which is scary to our customers."

Next page: Why Cingulars bid makes most sense.