High Profile Support for AT&T T-Mobile Merger

The New York Times reports that large industry players and companies like Microsoft, Research In Motion (makers of Blackberry), Qualcomm, Facebook, Yahoo, Oracle, and 10 major Venture Capital firms are backing the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.  GeekWire also posted a copy of their letter in support.  It is notable that this group has traditionally been distrustful or opposed to AT&T in Tech Policy especially with the recent Net Neutrality issue, but they reached the conclusion that the positives of the wireless merger outweigh the negatives.

The group considered but ultimately rejected Sprint’s arguments that the merger would reduce competition and hurt innovation because they fear the spectrum crunch destroying the quality of experience for applications and devices.  Sprint’s arguments might also have been more persuasive if they weren’t,  despite investor protest,  hoarding spectrum to depress Clearwire stock to facilitate their takeover.  T-Mobile has valuable spectrum and other infrastructure that will help AT&T “expand its nascent 4G network to cover 97 percent of the country and an additional 55 million Americans.”  This is much more important to the mobile hardware and application ecosystem than what little marginal level of competition a struggling T-Mobile can provide even if T-Mobile survives independently.

  • Steve Crowley

    When I read the text of the letter I wondered who Qualcomm found to sign it, suspecting it was someone not in a core engineering function.

    Here’s the letter as filed:


    Turns out no one signed it. Don’t FCC filings have to come from people?

  • George Ou

    What would lead you to believe that someone in a core engineering function would be disinclined to sign the letter? And why is this an engineering issue?

    The point is that Qualcomm and these other companies feel that the merger will be beneficial to the entire wireless ecosystem for devices, applications, and content. That can only happen if consumers adopt wireless technology in higher numbers and that only happens when the services are competitive.

  • […] [Cross-posted at High-Tech Forum] […]

  • Steve Crowley

    I’d imagine some engineers would look on AT&T’s approach to capacity improvement and find it possibly suboptimal, and certainly inelegant.

  • George Ou

    Can you elaborate? Might you be suggesting that they don’t really need T-Mobile’s spectrum and they should simply increase cell capacity even that costs tens of billions more?

  • Steve Crowley

    It’s possible AT&T doesn’t need T-Mobile’s spectrum if there are ways to provide equivalent relief at a cost of less than $39 billion. I know dozens of engineers at Qualcomm and think the company could architect an economical solution that didn’t involve buying a competitor. But, as a supplier in the wireless ecosystem AT&T uses, the company may have to bite its lip and play along.

    I had hoped to see at least a little discussion on my original point. As I read the Administrative Procedures Act, filings to administrative agencies such as the FCC have to come from people, not company logotypes. In my view, not tying a filing to someone, somewhere, creates the potential for abuse as a document’s origin is no longer traceable. Do others see this as an issue, or are they OK with it?

  • George Ou

    Well that $39B isn’t just for spectrum as it also includes physical infrastructure e.g., towers. Given the fact that it takes years (and occasionally decades) to get a tower permit these days, buying another company might be the only option.

  • Steve Crowley

    I’m open to the possibility of it being the only option, but I don’t see the need for much tower construction in the absence of a merger. AT&T already has master lease agreements with tower site and rooftop site management companies that can provide instant access to existing sites with existing backhaul capability. I’ve heard of six-month lead times for deploying small cells, from the time the need is identified.

    Moreover, I look at the Petitions to Deny the merger, and AT&T’s response filed a few days ago, and the engineering portion of AT&T’s response strikes me as relatively weak. It’s a handwaving style of writing I have had to employ at times over the years (not in the High Tech Forum, of course).

    The small cell issue, versus more macrocells, pertains to your WHO RF radiation piece a few days ago. The small cell approach brings the user closer to the base station, reducing the power the handset needs to transmit, increasing battery life, and providing a more uniform user experience. How soon before a public interest group tries to make this an issue, not that a valid case could be made?

  • George Ou

    Steve, you’re preaching to the choir regarding the need for more towers. There are many benefits like lower RF emissions on handsets to higher capacity.

    However, I’ve read of tower obstruction for co-location on existing tower sites.

  • Steve Crowley

    Yes, that can be a problem. One US operator even told me of a battle it was in with the local government to replace an existing antenna with a smaller model.

  • […] claims that companies publicly supporting the AT&T/T-Mobile merger are actually privately opposed to it, but are afraid to speak out.  For years, many tech […]

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