AT&T's Purchase of T-Mobile Collapses; Let the Finger-Pointing Begin


There will be some unhappy people this Christmas now that the acquisition of T-Mobile from AT&T is off the table. But I won't be one of them, and I can say with a straight face that it has nothing at all to do with my crush on The Girl in the Pink Dress.


Nor is my lack of concern driven by the technological mismatch between the two GSM carriers. I may never understand why T-Mobile chose to use the 1700MHz band when the rest of the GSM-speaking world had placed itself squarely on 850, 900, 1900 and 2100MHz, but I know that in doing so, the carrier shot itself in the foot and kept pulling the trigger.

No, I just didn't see what was in this for anyone except shareholders and executives of the two companies. For the rest of us, it looked like another set of phony promises of efficiencies and synergies, and finally, after years of toothless "regulation," someone in a position of power - in this case, the combination of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission - called shenanigans on the whole mess.

There's no question that Deutsche Telekom's bid to make big money in the American market has failed miserably, except in the area of corporate iconography. After all, you know you've succeeded when the competition's ads mock your campaign, and TGITPD - her real name is Carly Foulkes - is inarguably an emblem of whatever we wind up calling this era. (I'm voting for "20-Tweens" until I hear something better.) In any event, the collapse of this deal leaves T-Mobile without foreseeable options; the other major wireless carriers are even less technologically compatible than AT&T was.

Meanwhile, shareholders of AT&T are presumably less than amused by the $1.5 billion dollar payment - that seems to be the net, after taxes - which the company will have to make to Deutsche Telekom as compensation for the collapse of the deal. I wouldn't be counting on much in the way of dividend checks next year, if I were one of you.

Ultimately, I want to see a rebuke from Justice - and/or the FCC - aimed squarely at statements such as those of AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, in which he displays the conceit that the most important responsibility of the Federal government is to make sure that AT&T gets as much of the wireless spectrum as it deems necessary. Newsflash for Mr. Stephenson and his ilk: that isn't your spectrum, bub. That belongs to We, the People; we're just letting you rent it for a minute or two.