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Is anyone really surprised that U.S. says “not so fast” on the AT&T deal with T-Mobile?

Posted by Alex Brisbourne on 09/08/2011
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As an active participant in the business of delivering wireless network services, I am looking forward to the intricacies and the arguments afforded by the impending legal battle that the U.S. Dept. of Justice set into motion last week with its announcement to go to court to block AT&T's takeover of T-Mobile. From a practical standpoint, I would have been surprised if the DoJ had allowed this deal to go by without significant concessions. We've certainly seen the rural cellular providers playing a firm hand, and the case for continued competition has not been clearly made. Some say the government is acting out of desire to "reinvigorate [antitrust] enforcement after a lull period," and one cannot discount the lingering vestige of Ma Bell's legacy that AT&T cannot seem to shake, but it is particularly telling to me that Deutsche Telecom appeared to hold reservations that the deal would get through. Consider: DT negotiated significant benefits if the deal failed to clear regulatory review. Even with 're-negotiation' they will be material. That's what I call smart, hard-line business at its best.

In any event, one of the (many) logical question for us to ask is, "How does this affect the market for M2M network services?" We all know that AT&T has been touting its growing "Connected Devices" business recently, and that T-Mobile has put in a strong performance in this M2M space, from humble beginnings, in the past 2 years. Is AT&T really enticed by T-Mobile's consumer contracts and spectrum assets, or does the commercial line of business warrant serious consideration due to their long-term strategic importance in markets where connectivity is expected to be offered for years to come?

I will decline to speculate, but one thing is clear: AT&T justifies the deal because it claims it does not have enough access to wireless spectrum to meet consumers' skyrocketing mobile data needs. Yet, M2M users use little data, and little spectrum. In fact, much could even be achieved during off-peak use periods. And, they pay far more per byte moved than consumers. M2M customers want surety of service, on known, inexpensive, technologies. As markets in medical, utilities and global security adopt M2M more ubiquitously, they need their questions answered. They are not being answered in the current presentations or debates.

To be sure, these legal wranglings may not be directly linked to the needs of the M2M user, but as time goes by, these questions will be raised and have the potential to become a part of the debate. As the spotlight moves. It serves as a reminder that there are plenty of considerations to take into account, aside from consumer smart phone pricing and plans.

by Alex Brisbourne, President and COO

As the president and chief operating officer of KORE, Alex has over 20 years of experience in the networking and telecommunications industry, in Europe, North America and Asia. His expertise and areas of concentration center around wireless, enterprise and fixed line services. In his current role at KORE, he continually strives to improve company growth, by ensuring the M2M marketplace and KORE customers are well served by members of the KORE team worldwide.