Wednesday, October 3, 2012

T-Mobile's Next Phase

Updated to reflect the MetroPCS/T-Mobile merger is confirmed.

Just after I decided to join T-Mobile for most, if not someday all, of our wireless needs, T-Mobile finalized a spectrum swap with Cricket Wireless.  Then came the news that T-Mobile will merge with Metro PCS.  This may be an easily-approved combination and we're trying to see how it feels from a consumer viewpoint.   With incompatible CDMA vs. GSM technologies, there are a few hurdles to overcome.  Both companies do have a long-term goal to embrace LTE technology.  MetroPCS already uses VoIP so synergies are already possible. We must not overlook the incompatibilities of the networks.  As with the purchase of Nextel by Sprint, the technology problems may never be solved without big losses of money or customers.

For the short term, there should be no need for wholesale handset conversion, it could evolve as users decide to change their needs.  The bigger question is how much the loss of a competitor affects the overall market.  MetroPCS is not available in many US markets, but it serves a number of the largest cities.  This means a loss of competition in the nation's biggest cities but it increases the wireless capacity for the number four network, right where we need it most.

A larger T-Mobile may make it even more difficult for the next largest carrier, Cricket, to survive, forcing them toward another suitor, potentially Sprint.  Sprint came within a whisker of buying MetroPCS.  That means Sprint may still be in the market for the spectrum and customers that Cricket could bring to the table, and woop, another competitor disappears.  Don't overlook the possibility that Cricket could also still join the T-Metro party.

A few years ago we were appalled at the idea of only 5 or 6 national wireless carriers, now we're desperate to keep 4!  We thought the best idea was a MetroPCS-Cricket combination.  Now we're cheerleading to keep T-Mobile and Sprint alive.  It's our own form of Long-Term Evolution!

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