Talk about a case of the Mondays. If you felt the collective cry of despair through the space-time continuum earlier today, that was the customer-base of T-Mobile discovering that their telecom of choice agreed to a buy-out offer from AT&T in their morning news. T-Mobile has posted a Q&A for their customers, which should be helpful for all the initial questions, but not much else.
The industry-wide speculation is much more interesting (and lively). Techmeme, as always, has a litany of different voices abuzz with what’s going to happen. The consensus at this time appears to be, “bad idea” and “it’s going to happen whether we like it or not.” Bummer, but that’s to be expected.
It’s the writing of people like Bruce Gottlieb, an ex-regulator and now writer for the Atlantic, that are the insight leaders about the buy-out because they rise above the pessimist clatter by discussing some of the non-preordained questions, such as, what will Verizon do? It’s hard for them to not respond in some way, but the historical preference for telecoms -- make a purchase of their own -- is not necessarily the best option. Whatever happens, we can be sure that the telecom giant won’t just wait for AT&T to usurp their network lead. The race is on.
In turn, what will Silicon Valley do? The major carriers and tech companies had been squabbling for years before the new generations of smart phones redefined those disagreements by tempering them with business partnerships. How will network consolidation redefine, re-ignite, or further temper those disagreements between the carriers and the valley? At this point, there appears to be a universal pessimism to match AT&T’s acquisition. Om Malik appears to be the leading popular voice describing how the valley (and consumers) will suffer in a market with fewer providers.
While I’m wary of the merger, too, I’m not ready to declare that frogs are falling from the heavens just yet. We could still be surprised by how the government responds to the acquisition, and even with only AT&T and Verizon as the major carriers (isn’t that already the case for most of us?) we’ll continue to see the cellular market act as it does today. That’s more ho-hum-carry-on than carrier choice apocalypse.