Five ways AT&T acquiring T-Mobile will change the mobile operating landscape

Mar 20, 2011
Finance

And then there were three. Today AT&T (T) announced its intention to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG for $39 billion in cash and stock. While regulatory approval is not guaranteed and will likely take several months, even the announcement of the deal will carry a permanent impact on the mobile industry. Here are […]

And then there were three.

Today AT&T (T) announced its intention to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG for $39 billion in cash and stock. While regulatory approval is not guaranteed and will likely take several months, even the announcement of the deal will carry a permanent impact on the mobile industry.

Here are five ways AT&Ts acquisition of T-Mobile will alter the mobile operating landscape.

1) Consumers won’t have to change plans to buy an iPhone

While the Verizon (VZ) iPhone cracked the seal on allowing non-AT&T subscribers access to Apple’s (AAPL) iOS mobile operating system, the rollover of T-Mobile customers will enable nearly anyone to acquire an iPhone without switching carriers.

Combined, AT&T will have approximately 130 million subscribers while Verizon has nearly 95 million wireless subscribers. Sprint (S), which does not have a deal with Apple and is trailing heavily as the number three mobile carrier, is now a ripe acquisition candidate. Its most likely suitor? Verizon, of course.

2) AT&T’s Android capabilities are now fully operational

Knowing that the Verizon iPhone was inevitable and that it would soon lose exclusivity over Apple’s iconic device, AT&T in recent years has been investing heavily in bolstering its Android presence. While Ma Bell has a modest hit with the Motorola Atrix (MMI), it will now tap into T-Mobile’s impressive roster of Android phones including the Samsung (005930.KS) Galaxy S 4G and G2 with Google (GOOG).

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3) Speaking of 4G, might it be coming to the iPhone 5?

Don’t expect to see more of those T-Mobile commercials making fun of AT&T’s network problems for much longer. T-Mobile’s 4G footprint, while arguably less powerful than AT&T’s and Verizon’s, is more expansive. Apple in the coming months will announce the iPhone 5. While many tech pundits were skeptical that the iPhone 5 would be 4G-enabled because of AT&T and Verizon’s fledgling networks, the bar (or bars) are now raised with AT&T potentially situated to offer 4G service for iPhone owners. This means faster connections, and the ability to share and disseminate rich media to mobile devices on the iPhone in ways previously unfathomed.

4) It’s still all about the apps

Fewer choices of carriers doesn’t mean there will be less apps to discover and download. While there are important concerns the Department of Justice will have to ponder as it relates to the mobile carrier industry, competition among app developers will remain fierce as more consumers will have access to the smartphone of their choice in the coming years. There are currently more than half a million apps available on the iOS, Android and other mobile operating platforms. Expect that number to continue to grow exponentially in the months and years ahead.

5) We should still expect the unexpected

Today’s deal announcement took most industry observers by surprise. Speculation was that T-Mobile and Sprint were preparing a merger of equals. Regulatory approval will take at least several months while wireless technology and consumer adaption to smartphones will continue to advance at a Moore’s Law-type pace. It will get messy in this interregnum, and parts may not land where they are lining up today. Stay tuned.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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