Monday, December 19, 2011

AT&T-Mobile deal all but over, joint venture partnership likely

It’s becoming more and more clear that AT&T will not be allowed to buy T-Mobile USA outright. AT&T’s fourth quarter hail-mary effort to save the deal involved selling off some of its assets to appease government opposition, including a potential selloff of customers and spectrum to Leap Wireless. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that these divestiture negotiations cooled off over the weekend, and that AT&T is now preparing itself to pay the $4B breakup fee to Deutsche Telekom.
Though it appears a full takeover of T-Mobile USA is off the table, two likely alternatives are emerging. First, and perhaps the most likely scenario, AT&T and Deutsche Telekom are discussing entering into a joint venture in the United States that would combine AT&T and T-Mobile’s resources together to create a combined network. The result would be something similar to carrier Everything Everywhere in the UK, which is a joint venture between T-Mobile UK and Orange where Everything Everywhere acts as a single company which runs both T-Mobile UK and Orange networks in the UK.
Alternatively, Dish Network has long expressed interest in entering into the mobile market. Just last week, Dish Network expressed interest in purchasing T-Mobile USA if the AT&T purchase falls through. Dish Network has been acquiring spectrum left and right lately, but still doesn’t have enough spectrum to launch a widespread cellular network. Purchasing T-Mobile would provide Dish Network with the opportunity to launch their own carrier, probably under the Dish moniker.
Regardless of which suitor ultimately partners with or fully acquires T-Mobile USA, Deutsche Telekom (DT) continues to indicate that they have no interest in staying in the US market for long. It is widely believed that the $4B breakup fee from AT&T will be used to invest in DT’s European network, not to bolster the operations of  T-Mobile USA.
We’ll likely know more about T-Mobile USA’s fate in coming months. For now, it appears T-Mobile customers can rest assured that they won’t become AT&T customers anytime soon (or Leap Wireless for that matter).

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