AT&T made statements published today in the Independent Record newspaper in Helena, MT that makes us wonder if they're ignorant or hope that we are. Montana is one of the most-researched states among the Mountain Wireless Cellular Networks, and there is much concern about wireless service in such a rural state. The Independent Record reported that "(AT&T Regional President Adam Grzybicki) said that now they look to increase the coverage and expand its power from 3G to 4G LTE. That build-out, however, is contingent on a merger with T-Mobile." That means that in order to add 4G service in Montana, AT&T needs T-Mobile's spectrum.
The reality is AT&T has held 1900 MHz PCS licenses in Montana for years. AT&T also possesses a large amount of AWS (1700/2100 MHz) spectrum in Montana and many other states that also remains undeveloped. They do not need T-Mobile's spectrum in these areas to offer new service just as they did not need Alltel's spectrum to offer cellular service in Montana. It was just easier, and probably cheaper, to take over all of Alltel's cell sites and customers than build their own. AT&T wants to expand through acquisition of existing networks instead of using their already-owned spectrum. The elimination of T-Mobile as a competitor is just icing on the cake. Is expansion by acquisition necessary, especially in places like Montana where there is no T-Mobile network?
Dangling the carrot of 4G wireless broadband service to the isolated rural residents would certainly encourage locals to support the AT&T/T-Mobile combination. This has happened in several rural states where politicians have added their support to the deal. The question remains, though, why hasn't AT&T used their existing unused spectrum to offer service in these areas long ago? If you live in a rural area like Montana, are you watching the carrot or are you wondering why hasn't this been done already?