A man holds the iPhone in a death grip.
In a totally unexpected announcement, everyone's least favorite wireless carrier, AT&T, proclaimed that it had struck a deal to buy out T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. If the deal is approved, AT&T could really become the Death Star conglomerate the media has constantly painted it as.
AT&T's buyout of T-Mobile USA would make it the largest wireless operator in the U.S. and give it a new combined total of 130 million customers, or about 42 percent of the U.S wireless subscribers, besting out Verizon's 31 percent market share.
Should the new lovey-dovey relationship actually be completed within a year, there will officially be only three major U.S. wireless carriers: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. One massive GSM-based carrier and two CDMA ones. What everyone is fearing will be the decreased competition which will lead to decreased innovation, higher voice and data plans, cut jobs and retail store closings that the AT&T and T-Mobile deal will create.
For years, T-Mobile has continued to cut voice and data plans — catering to the low-end — the person or family that wanted more for less. In fact, if you were to do a straight-up comparison, T-Mobile plans provide a ton of bang for buck compared to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. A total buyout would likely see policy changes that would align T-Mobile's interests with that of the AT&T's. As if just being the worst wireless carrier in the U.S. isn't enough, inconveniences such as AT&T's shoddier customer service and crazy overcharges could be on their way for everybody.
Don't count on it immediately. Although AT&T and T-Mobile both run on GSM frequencies, their 3G networks operate on completely different frequencies — AT&T works on mainly 1900MHz and T-Mobile on 1700 and 2100MHz. An iPhone that works on T-Mobile's network would require a new antenna to even pick up the 3G signal. A software update would not be able to add T-Mobile functionality to the current AT&T iPhone. Immediately putting the possibility of an iPhone to a stop, T-Mobile put out an official statement:
"T-Mobile USA remains an independent company. The acquisition is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months. We do not offer the iPhone. We offer cutting edge devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and coming soon our new Sidekick 4G."
Of course, T-Mobile customers would probably be able to just buy one from AT&T, seeing as how they'll all be part of AT&T's family once the deal gets completed.
AT&T is hailing the deal as a major win for 4G. By swallowing up T-Mobile, AT&T can quickly claim to have the largest 4G network in the U.S. It's not the most friendly way to get the nation's largest 4G network, but since when has a total takeover ever been friendly?
One thing that seems to be skipping across everyone's mind is that, at the very least, AT&T customers will have a broader selection of cellphones to choose from. All those HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson Phones that were once exclusive to T-Mobile USA will be up for grabs for AT&T customers who want more choice than just iPhone.