AT&T Bids to Buy T-Mobile

Over this weekend AT&T got hungry. To address it’s desire for a snack it has bid a staggering $39 billion to acquire T-Mobile USA. There’s a ton of analysis and commentary about this appearing online. Anyone who is not working for the two companies seems to think that this deal is bad for customers. That’s my position as well.

I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for the past five years. I’ve been consistently impressed with the companies customer service ethic. They didn’t always have the best handsets, or the best coverage, but they handled me in a manner that made me feel good about doing business with them.

My experience with T-Mobile is in marked contrast to my experience with AT&T. About a dozen years ago AT&T and my then fiancé had a disagreement about a long distance bill. It stemmed from an accounting error. The amount of the bill was trivial, but their handling of the matter was reprehensible, even border-line illegal.

When the matter was finally resolved I vowed that the company would not get another dollar from our family….and they haven’t.

When AT&T later bought Cingular I switched our cellular service to Verizon Wireless. I stayed with VZW for a few years, until my occasional need to travel in Europe made a GSM phone a practical necessity.

When AT&T bought SBC it drove us to drop our last land lines. For the home & office phones we’ve been 100% pure VoIP since then.

For cellular service I originally chose T-Mobile because their rates were simply the most competitive of the two GSM-based carriers. That remains true today. T-Mobile is the one carrier the delivered some competition within the North American GSM realm. In some small way they countered the dominance of AT&T.

Recently I’ve been making considerable use of tethering to my T-Mobile issued G2. This capability was added without requiring an additional option on my “unlimited” plan. Would that have happened with AT&T?

In the end, I’m doubtful that AT&T will retain the competitive & customer service stances that made T-Mobile a better carrier. I also fear the reality of there being only one GSM-based carrier in the US. That seems to consolidate too much power into on set of CxO suites. that’d be bad for customers, but equally bad for equipment suppliers.

I certainly hope that the regulators put in their teeth when it comes time to consider this deal. They need to take a good, long look and ensure that it serves the interest of customers beyond AT&T’s iPhone-wielding justifiably-irate mob.

Failure to consider this transaction carefully could one day result in what would be known as T-Mobile’s “Even Less” plan.

  • KMAC

    Unfortunately, Wall St. will make a killing on this merger. So they will allow it, regardless whether it sucks for us consumers. Washington hasn’t given a damn about us and aren’t about to.

  • I have been a T-Mobile user and I am now an AT&T U-Verse and Wireless user. I agree, T-Mobile does have the better customer service. However, the reason Deutsch Telecom has been wanting to sell T-Mobile for the past year or so is because they are losing money! T-Mobile rates are too cheap and the service was unsustainable at those prices. I think I’m like most people when I say that I love “unlimited” this and “unlimited” that, but in reality the company has to make a profit otherwise I will have to hop from carrier to carrier until there are only two carriers left…. oh wait, that’s already happening now. T-Mobile didn’t have the revenue to build out a real 4G network, but AT&T does have the money to do such things. The merger does eliminate a competitor, but it makes the AT&T service more competitive against Verizon (the most expensive wireless carrier ever!)… and that is good for consumers who want wireless technology to continue to build out.

    • Mark my words….we will regret the elimination of yet another player in the space. Two significant players in a market does not make for competition.

      Oh yes, there’s no such thing as “unlimited.” That’s a marketing game. I have “unlimited” within the scope defined by some fine print. That’s 5 GB/mo for data, 3K minutes (I think) for voice, but hardly unlimited.

      At for the 4G issue; I enjoy the HSPA+ network right now, have been for 6 months. It’s widespread. Yes, LTE will be faster, but it will not be widespread for some time. Nor are there many devices for it. All these things have to been in context of time. HSPA+ was a good decision at the time and is serving them well now.

      AT&T have not proven themselves to be anything but arrogant, slow moving incumbents with little regard for customers. Only the loss of exclusivity of the iPhone has forced their hand in some ways. I despise that company.

      • I sense a great emotional attachment to this argument, and I appreciate how your personal past experiences might cloud your opinion. I can say that I have yet to have a bad experience with them as a company. If AT&T was smart, they would expand the T-Mobile customer service to handle AT&T customer service. Then, they should take the most successful T-Mobile plans and bring those over to AT&T. AT&T has the larger network, T-Mobile has the happy customers. Hopefully the M&A department is paying attention and loud spoken during the transition…

        • At various times I’ve dealt with AT&T for DSL, cellular and long distance service. In all three instances they left me feeling like I was being abused. As has been mentioned elsewhere, one case ended with lawyers involved.

          Add to that the idiocy spouted by their former CEO, Ed Whitacre, about network neutrality,”…they think that they can use my pipes for free..” Nonesense! They get paid for everything that they do. But they’re greedy. It’s never enough.

          From my perspective they’ve had their three at-bats with respect to our family. I will not use them nor will I recommend them to anyone. That may be emotional, but if it is it stems from the abuse suffered as customer. It’s well earned.

          • I feel the same about our local cable company in the Midwest — Charter Communications. I completely understand. I suppose it all depends on where you live.

          • Yes. It’s really an issue of corporate culture, which can vary by geography.