Yesterday, both AT&T and T-Mobile announced that AT&T would acquire the latter in a deal worth $39 billion. Thoughts raced through millions of heads, wondering how the acquisition would affect them, mine included. As a T-Mobile customer, I wondered what options were now left to me.
What does the $39 billion deal mean in a nutshell? Instead of having four major U.S. carriers to choose from, there would only be three options available. It also means that if you want to stick to GSM (the mobile standard 80 percent of the world uses), there would be only one player left in town: AT&T.
Ultimately, across the board from customers to manufacturers, there will be less choice and less competition, effectively letting AT&T set the standard however they want.
Even if T-Mobile is currently the nation’s fourth-largest carrier, they still provide an alternative GSM choice to AT&T’s service. They never had the hottest ticket in town, Apple’s star-studded iPhone, but they were the first carrier to introduce Android. They also consistently offer competitively-priced phone plans, and have ranked at the top of the J.D. Power and Associates’ list for customer service in the past few years. That’s a stark contrast to what has been called the worst phone company in the United States.
But is it all bad? According to AT&T, the deal will increase the number of cell towers by about 30 percent in densely populated areas (meaning, perhaps, San Francisco and New York users can stop complaining). Both companies say that the merger means an enhanced data network for its customers, something that AT&T users would definitely stand to benefit from:
The merger will ensure the deployment of a robust 4G LTE network to 95% of the U.S. population, something neither company would achieve on its own. Also, because of our compatible networks and spectrum, the customers of T-Mobile USA and AT&T will experience improved voice and data service almost immediately after the networks are integrated.
In fact, AT&T is probably counting on the increased network coverage to be a major selling point to the FCC and FTC to push the acquisition through.
The deal doesn’t only concern GSM users: in fact, it’ll probably shake up the whole telecom market in general. Verizon and Sprint, both CDMA carriers, will also be affected. As a result, AT&T will become the United States’s biggest mobile network with a projected combined customer base of almost 130 million, far surpassing Verizon’s.