In response to the Department of Justice’s move to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, the Communications Workers of America has released a new report on the effect blocking the merger will have. Titled, rather bluntly, “Blocking the AT&T/T-Mobile Merger will Harm Consumers, Communities & the Economy,” the report covers everything from AT&T’s commitment to expand 4G LTE, to the effect the merger will have on much-needed job creation.
The entire report is a must-read, but there are a few points made that are worth highlighting, beginning with the argument that blocking the merger will be good for preserving competition. As CWA states:
“[T]here is no long-term future for a stand-alone T-Mobile as an effective competitor: it has neither the spectrum nor the capital to create a competitive network utilizing the latest wireless technology (called 4G LTE). In January 2011 the CEO of T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom (DT), stated that DT would not provide the capital for T-Mobile’s 4G LTE deployment. T-Mobile also is on a downward trajectory suffering from declining revenue, eroding profit margins and increasing customers defections.”
With Verizon, AT&T, and now Sprint making the shift to 4G LTE technology, the fact that T-Mobile will soon be left behind regardless of the merger continues to be overlooked. And given that only AT&T and T-Mobile are compatible when it comes to network technology, the idea that T-Mobile could simply merge with someone else simply isn’t realistic. From the report:
There are two separate technological family trees that are not easily compatible. GSM based systems have evolved through UMTS, HSPA+, LTE and, the next step, LTE Advanced. CDMA based systems have evolved to EVDO.
• The merger between AT&T and T-Mobile creates technological synergies because each of these companies utilizes GSM and HSPA based networks.
• A merger between Sprint and T-Mobile (these companies were in merger discussions) would have experienced significant technological challenges because the two companies utilize different and incompatible technologies. T-Mobile’s systems are GSM based while Sprint’s systems are CDMA based.
As for AT&T’s ability to expand its 4G LTE network to cover nearly every corner of America — a key point, as it dovetails with President Obama’s State of the Union pledge to bring advanced mobile broadband to everyone — CWA points out such an expansion wouldn’t be feasible without the merger due to capacity and spectrum constraints:
AT&T’s other options could not remotely approach the merger in terms of increasing capacity, utilizing spectrum more efficiently, improving service and expanding 4G LTE deployment… [I]t would take AT&T eight years to obtain and activate the number of cell sites it will obtain from T-Mobile. AT&T also could not depend on a possible federal auction to reallocate spectrum because it is a multi-year process that needs Congressional approval, a FCC rule making, the actual auction and then a period for relocation of incumbent licenses and integration of existing network and equipment with the spectrum — if the bid is successful.
These are just a few of the salient points CWA makes about the merger. There’s much more to be found in the full report, including the effects blocking the merger will have on job creation and efforts to close the digital divide. You should definitely dig in.