AT&T to buy T-Mobile: not a good sign

In the tech news here this week is the announcement that US telecom giant AT&T is buying smaller mobile carrier T-Mobile, which will reduce the number of nationwide major carriers to three (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, though Sprint is smaller than the “big two”). Ars Technica reports all the ugly details of this, and why such a merger is a bad idea:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/03/analysis-higher-prices-fewer-choices-once-att-swallows-t-mobile.ars

As the article (and a million other people online) have noted by now, this is definitely a bad thing for the already-sorry state of US mobile phone service. Only two major cell phone companies to choose from, and both of them mediocre companies at best, isn’t good for consumers. While I’m currently with Sprint, an even-worst-case-scenario would see Sprint (a smaller company than AT&T and Verizon) bought out by Verizon. Not something I’d like to see come to pass, though if it did, I’d probably give some thought to going to some smaller regional provider, like the midwest’s US Cellular.

Of course, the FCC *could* stop the merger from happening, but since they clearly just rubber-stamp any media merger nowadays, no matter how ill-conceived or money-grubbing (see: Comcast-NBC), I’m sure they won’t be a problem…

Update (3/22/11): Verizon’s CEO has stated that his company has no interest or plans to buy Sprint. Assuming it’s true (or Verizon doesn’t change their minds later on), that’s good news for Sprint, though they could still be bought by/merge with some other company…

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