By Carl Howe
I think we expected a few big announcements at CTIA, but not one this big. AT&T (T) will acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. This is big news because it:
- Catapults AT&T as the biggest U.S. carrier. T-Mobile adds 46 million customers to AT&T’s already massive 96 million subscriber base. The resulting 142 million subscriber base puts AT&T far ahead of Verizon’s (VZ) 94 million subscribers.
- Gives AT&T a near-monopoly for GSM customers and handsets. T-Mobile was the alternative carrier for customers who wanted to use GSM technology, but didn’t want to subscribe to AT&T. Now there is no national carrier other than AT&T that runs a GSM network. This will have big ramifications for visitors from other countries with GSM handsets who want to use their phones in the U.S.
- Adds even more infrastructure and coverage to AT&T’s network. Not only will AT&T gain customers, but more importantly, it gains many cellular sites and base stations. T-Mobile’s commitment to HSPA+ combined with AT&T’s efforts already underway not only make AT&T the largest mobile carrier, but the largest 4G carrier as well.
We’ll undoubtedly get more information about this development at CTIA this week. But AT&T and T-Mobile just reshaped the U.S. wireless market in a very big way.