Sunday, March 20, 2011

AT&T acquires T-Mobile...and it will likely never happen

Yep, it's just like it sounds. AT&T in all of their infinite insanity worked out talks with Deutsche Telekom, aka T-Mobile's German owner, to purchase T-Mobile for $39 billion. Of course, it will likely never happen. There's too much riding on the fact that adding in T-Mobile's 35 or so million customers would make AT&T the biggest wireless provider (sounds eerily familiar as to what happened when they got themselves broken up) with over 130 million customers. Next in line is Verizon with about 102 million customers. Finally, followed by Sprint with 40 million.

See the problem here? The term oligopoly comes to mind. When AT&T switched to tiered data plans or raised the prices on text messaging, all other carriers followed suit. More commonly called collusion, it's a disaster for consumers. With no real competition left in America, the wireless companies can charge outrageous prices for their services and no one can oppose them. As of last check, the big four (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint) controlled 89% of all wireless in the USA. Sounds pretty rough, but hey, at least you had four choices or sometimes more depending on your location. In my town, there are really only three. There are things like Boost Mobile, Virgin, etc, but these are really just derivatives of the big four (possibly three now).

Of course, T-Mobile, in a bid to protect AT&T's investment, released the press junket with a Q & A on what was going to happen. This is just subterfuge for the reality of the situation in that all T-Mobile customers are going to get fucked.

It's funny how you can correlate specific events in your life to other events totally unrelated and make sense of something. My example here is my time working for Ryan's Steakhouse. I came in right around the fall of our Ryan's here in my town of Kokomo. Mismanagement, corporate fuckery, sagging sales, and stronger competition had led to the restaurant on the verge of collapse. Still, the place did have its moments and could show off some pretty nice numbers around the holidays.

A few months before the store closed down, word came to us that Old Country Buffet had acquired with Ryan's Restaurant Group. For months, rumors swirled at our business that they were going to shut down the weaker stores (ours had became one of them). However, we never knew it was coming until the very day it happened. The managers all told us it was a simple merger at the time and to not worry about it. This is the same logic that T-Mobile is doing right now. They're assuring the customers that nothing is going to change, but we all know that it is.

If AT&T does manage to get this through, you can say good-bye to the affordable rate plans, unlimited data, unique offerings that only T-Mobile had (UMA and WiFi calling, EM+ plans, etc), and of course, customer service. This is a bad deal in the making and the worst part is that if they do push it through, my choices and those of other consumers in my town and elsewhere, is extremely limited. Verizon's plans are expensive and their CDMA network is slow and outdated plus they are ridding themselves of unlimited data. Sprint has unlimited data, but suffers from poor signal where I live.

This is why we need solid competition. Monopolies and oligopolies strip the consumers of any choice, freedom, or buying power. Wireless communications is the future with more people abandoning land lines for it, and that future is dark indeed. We need this to be blocked because when we lose a competitor, everyone loses. 

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