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AT & T & T-Mobile
March 20, 2011 7:43 PM   Subscribe

AT&T has announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom, creating the largest wireless provider in the United States.

The merger would join AT&T's maligned network to T-Mobile's, which currently provides some of the fastest smartphone speeds in the country and effectively grant a GSM monopoly to the new AT&T. The general consensus, which AT&T plans to push back on during the FTC review, is that this deal would hurt both consumers and other firms in the wireless industry.
posted by ofthestrait (159 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh good! Less competition in wireless. Super!
posted by lalochezia at 7:56 PM on March 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Relevant
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:58 PM on March 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Jesus Christ, I literally activated my T-Mobile phone this morning. I found their pre-paid no contract plans to be much cheaper than any alternatives, we'll see how long that lasts.
posted by skewed at 7:58 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ma Bell
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:58 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The rumor was that Sprint and T-Mobile USA were going to merge, creating a network about as large as Verizon or AT&T. Instead, what a T-Mobile-AT&T merger will do is leave a market where AT&T is 50% larger than Verizon, which in turn is 50% larger than Sprint. I'm not sure what antitrust laws are supposed to do, if not prevent clusterfucks like this.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:02 PM on March 20, 2011 [42 favorites]


As someone who left AT&T for T -Mobile partially because they were NOT AT&T... I honestly don't know enough expletives to demonstrate my actual emotion towards this.

..fucking monopolistic spies.
posted by leviathan3k at 8:05 PM on March 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


It will be interesting to see how this plays out from a regulatory perspective. I would imagine that a good chunk of T-Mobile assets and customers will have to be sold to other companies similar to what happened when Verizon bought Alltel.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:06 PM on March 20, 2011


Great. Just great.

T-mobile gobbled up my previous carrier Suncom (a regional carrier) and now this.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:06 PM on March 20, 2011


I have been on T-Mobile almost since they started in the U.S. This is terrible news for me personally, but even worse for customer choice. Who should I contact to complain? My congressman? The FTC?
posted by letitrain at 8:07 PM on March 20, 2011


I really, really hope that the anti-trust folks in the government block this. I don't expect them to but maybe, just maybe they'll do the right thing here.
posted by octothorpe at 8:08 PM on March 20, 2011


Prediction?

...

Pain.
posted by d1rge at 8:11 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an AT&T customer, this is good for me. But, I do see the problems with less wireless competition.
posted by hazyspring at 8:13 PM on March 20, 2011


Why would AT&T getting bigger benefit you hazyspring? If anything it's liable to reduce competition in the wireless market leading to higher prices.
posted by vuron at 8:16 PM on March 20, 2011


Since T-Mobile's 4G strategy was to call its 3G its 4G network, this is good for them since it seems like they didn't want to spend the billions to build out a LTE network.

For AT&T it means they can have a wider LTE footprint and valuable capacity in places like SF and NYC.

But for consumers, especially those of us that like more than one GSM carrier to choose from, it is very bad.

The winner here might be Sprint since they become the "at least it isn't ATT or Verizon" company. But the problem with Sprint is they still have their legacy iDen nextel network, their aging CDMA network, the stillborn Wimax 4G which is sounds like they're skipping to do LTE like the big guys. But they'll need to spend billions to have a 4G network like ATT and VZW.

Given the breakup fee part of the deal, I think AT&T has the muscle to push around the regulatory agencies and DOJ to make this deal happen. If there are concessions, they'll be so minor AT&T won't care.
posted by birdherder at 8:17 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


What vuron said.

I now expect my iPhone plan to be a lot more expensive next time I renew it. Great.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:17 PM on March 20, 2011


It's odd that T-mobile was considered to have such a great data network. My experience with them in my market was that the voice quality was often lacking, and Verizon worked all kinds of places where they didn't.

Which was why I felt terrible when I left them. Their customer service was excellent. Really. Can't tell you how many times I called just knowing "okay, this is where I'll get boned. They are a phone company, after all." And they would fix the problem without the first quibble. I only left them very reluctantly because the phone just wasn't working places I needed it to work.

AT&T? Pffft. And Verizon isn't much better in customer service.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:18 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


AT&T has $3 billion on the line to pay Deutsche Telecom if the deal fails to go through, so I'm pretty sure they'll be more than happy to grease the right palms with many, many millions to make sure the deal is approved.
posted by mullingitover at 8:20 PM on March 20, 2011


There's a $3 billion dollar "breakup" fee AT&T has to pay to T-Mobile if this deal doesn't go through, so they must be pretty damn confident that they can get the deal approved. Hopefully they've underestimated consumer sentiment, people can get pretty emotional about their cell phones.
posted by skewed at 8:21 PM on March 20, 2011


I'm ready to retire the iPhone. I really don't see how any of this technology is making my life better.
posted by phaedon at 8:21 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


As someone who left AT&T for T -Mobile partially because they were NOT AT&T... I honestly don't know enough expletives to demonstrate my actual emotion towards this.

I am in exactly the same place. I left Cingular once AT&T took it over and the suckitude and corp F-U, began to pervade all the small type, and have enjoyed being on T-Mobile and using Android and teasing my friends with iPhone's that drop calls if they sneeze the wrong way, and have grown to respect T-MObile for keeping the suckitude at arms length. Little did I realize the suckitude would simply swallow it whole...

And don't even get me started on Verizon. Verizon invented monopolyistic Suckitude and consumer serfdom. I will find another small worthy carrier...

I must.
posted by Skygazer at 8:23 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good thing regulators broke up AT&T before it got out of control.

In related news, AT&T is going to start imposing a bandwidth cap on residential DSL accounts and charge a penalty for overages.
posted by bionic.junkie at 8:36 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Do I really need a cell phone?
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:37 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Since T-Mobile's 4G strategy was to call its 3G its 4G network, this is good for them since it seems like they didn't want to spend the billions to build out a LTE network.

Laying out a 4G network is expensive. There's securing bandwidth, physical plant, warm bodies to build it, and then all the people to make it run. It's not entirely surprising that the Germans decided to get while the getting was good. It would make sense to declare internet access (broadband and mobile) a regulated public utility. That'll never happen, though.
posted by immlass at 8:41 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


T-mobile had great customer service, and I have a grandfathered $5.99 unlimited data plan that I don't think will survive this. Gaah.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:45 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If US anti-trust regulators doesn't squash something as crazy bad as this, then US anti-trust is just a smear of lipstick cynically tarting up a pig of corruption.

Obama Administration - DO YOUR JOB!
posted by -harlequin- at 8:47 PM on March 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


Skygazer wrote: "I am in exactly the same place. I left Cingular once AT&T took it over and the suckitude and corp F-U"

Ironically, it was Cingular who absorbed AT&T Wireless several years before SBC (who had previously borged several RBOCs) bought AT&T (the long distance company) and and BellSouth (which also gave them 100% control of Cingular) then renamed themselves at&t.
posted by wierdo at 8:51 PM on March 20, 2011


I am also on T-Mobile and have been for years. Came from Cingular. I fucking despise AT&T. I love T-Mobile and I simply can't afford to pay more than I do now for my cell service, yet I know that probably pretty soon I'm going to have to because of this bullshit. How is this not violation of antitrust? How?

This sucks.
posted by perilous at 8:52 PM on March 20, 2011


In related news, AT&T is going to start imposing a bandwidth cap on residential DSL accounts and charge a penalty for overages.

At least now we know that Hollywood and the RIAA have a seat in the AT&T boardroom...
posted by Avenger at 8:57 PM on March 20, 2011


How is this not violation of antitrust? How?

Antitrust enforcement is probably best remembered as one of those "no whaling in Oklahoma" laws that are technically still on the books, but no one seriously considers enforcing ever again.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:59 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder how this is going to affect Sprint more than anything else, with T-Mobile supposedly marrying up to them in the tech rumorsphere.

I personally have had a fantastic experience with Sprint, aside from their $10/month smartphone fee. But even including that, you still can't beat Sprint's everything plan ($69.99 + $10 smartphone fee). I save nearly $20/month from what I was paying with Verizon, and from what I hear AT&T wasn't any better than VZW (if not worse). Coverage has been just as reliable as Verizon ever was, too. /Sprint stumping

In some ways it makes me optimistic that Sprint's going to be able to continue to focus on giving me more for less... in others it makes me worry that they're going to get left behind.
posted by erstwhile at 9:01 PM on March 20, 2011


Yeah, I've been with T-Mobile for almost six years, and have seen two friends screwed by AT&T—both when they had already cancelled AT&T's services, no less!—in that time. I'm not pleased. Definitely weighing my options at this point...
posted by limeonaire at 9:04 PM on March 20, 2011


How is this not violation of antitrust? How?

Because ... there are ... multiple ... viable competitors ... in the marketplace ...?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:10 PM on March 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


All you ex-Cingular folks who went to T-Mob and loved it? There's a reason for that - it was the same freakin' network.

Way to re-acquire the network you were forced to sell off last time, AT&T.
posted by ApathyGirl at 9:11 PM on March 20, 2011


With as much as I'm paying now, the idea of ditching the iPhone and just replacing it with an old-fashioned belt-clip pager is looking more appealing very day.

Of course, for a land line I'd just use the deactivated iPhone as a Skype phone, and be done with it.
posted by chambers at 9:14 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I miss T-mobile. Fantastic customer service. Like the others, I had to leave them because of the coverage.

Now this.

Blarg.
posted by Thistledown at 9:16 PM on March 20, 2011


Because ... there are ... multiple ... viable competitors ... in the marketplace ...?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:10 PM on March 20 [+] [!]


Nice snotty comeback, but I imagine you're aware that companies can exert monopolistic pricing control even when they are not true monopolies, and that "antitrust" is often used broadly to refer to government power to restrict mergers like this one.
posted by skewed at 9:21 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


posted by Cool Papa Bell
And just what is your relationship to "Ma Bell"?
i kid, i kid!
posted by pointystick at 9:27 PM on March 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ironically, it was Cingular who absorbed AT&T Wireless several years before SBC (who had previously borged several RBOCs) bought AT&T (the long distance company) and and BellSouth (which also gave them 100% control of Cingular) then renamed themselves at&t.

Yes, exactly. AT&T Wireless was some other company that just used (licensed?) the AT&T name. The current AT&T is mostly the SBC borg.

I really hate a lot about AT&T, but I have been a happy, loyal customer ever since they were the other AT&T Wireless. NEVER have calls drop when i am talking to a landline. Almost never when talking to other AT&T wireless or US "We're not Primeco anymore, dammit!" Cellular. Only have drops when I am talking to T-Mobile and Verizon users.

The only unhappy AT&T customers I've come across are people with certain brands of phones. Usually iPhones.
posted by gjc at 9:32 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Monopolies suck but I highly doubt prices will go up because of this. Verizon and AT&T basically just price fix in a probably not quite illegal way anyways. Prices will go up if they companies feel they can get away with it, but I doubt this buyout will have much affect on it. Hopefully it does mean more 4G coverage for me as an AT&T customer, but I won't hold my breath.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:40 PM on March 20, 2011


The nice thing about T-Mobile is they have a "web day pass", where you pay $1.50 and get 24 hours of data access. This has allowed me to use my Nexus One on a pay-as-you-go plan and not pay out the nose for data access on the rare occasions that I'm away from wifi.

It looks like I've bought my last smart phone.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:47 PM on March 20, 2011


AT&T has $3 billion on the line to pay Deutsche Telecom if the deal fails to go through, so I'm pretty sure they'll be more than happy to grease the right palms with many, many millions to make sure the deal is approved.

And with next year being an election year, I'm sure there will be plenty of eager recipients.

Otherwise, I look at what happened with broadband, and how now in most metro areas there is only one dominant DSL provider and one dominant cable provider. I suspect that this will go through because GSM & CDMA will be judged to be sufficient competition.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:50 PM on March 20, 2011


From this USA Today story:

Q: If I'm a T-Mobile customer, will I have to switch phones to keep my service under the new AT&T-T-Mobile?

A: As soon as the deal closes — if approved by the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission— AT&T will likely move to get T-Mobile subscribers onto AT&T phones.

What that means is that all of the T-Mobile customers using 3G phones will need to switch to AT&T phones at that time. It is also possible that AT&T would shoulder much, if not all, of that cost, though there could be some sort of small activation fee. T-Mobile phones that operate on 2G technology will not need to be replaced by AT&T phones in order to work on the network.


This is ridiculous.
posted by teraflop at 10:04 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]




Also: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.
posted by lalochezia at 10:19 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, I literally activated my T-Mobile phone this morning. I found their pre-paid no contract plans to be much cheaper than any alternatives, we'll see how long that lasts.
posted by skewed at 8:58 PM


I'd recommend looking up Page Plus. They're cheaper than T-Mobile by more than half, with better coverage.

On another note, I wonder if this constitutes a "get out of your contract free" card for T-Mobile customers if this goes through. I really hope it doesn't go through regulators though, but I'm not optimistic.
posted by azpenguin at 10:21 PM on March 20, 2011


I went with T-Mobile because they were the only decent GSM carrier in the US who don't (openly) send a copy of all my data to the NSA.

Maybe it's time to look into a WiFi smartphone + VoIP. After I write my representatives.
posted by formless at 10:56 PM on March 20, 2011


FML. I want to start a movement against this.
posted by rhizome at 10:57 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am leaving T-Mobile in the next 60 days. I've been with them for years, very very satisfied. Bought the G1 the day it shipped, and have been using a developer myTouch for the last 9 months. And... we're done.
posted by andreaazure at 10:57 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


andreaazure: where are you going?
posted by finite at 11:03 PM on March 20, 2011


I am in exactly the same place. I left Cingular once AT&T took it over and the suckitude and corp F-U, began to pervade all the small type

Actually, Cingular bought AT&T wireless and decided to take the name for themselves.

Anyway, this is total B.S. I have T-Mobile and one of the main reasons was that they were pretty much the least shitty company out there in terms of not screwing over customers.
I am leaving T-Mobile in the next 60 days. I've been with them for years, very very satisfied. Bought the G1 the day it shipped, and have been using a developer myTouch for the last 9 months. And... we're done.
Yeah... I still use my G1 but it just developed a thing where it 'flickers' when the brightness changes. I'm sure it's not big deal but my contract is up and I was seriously seriously considering getting a Galaxy S 4G with a new contract. It just didn't get around to it, and now this. And they're going to shut down the network and force everyone to use AT&T phones? Seriously?

Hopefully the FTC will kill this (although I doubt it)

---

We need to setup a customer owned cellphone company that doesn't fuck around. Like this and can't be bought.
posted by delmoi at 11:10 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


What that means is that all of the T-Mobile customers using 3G phones will need to switch to AT&T phones at that time. It is also possible that AT&T would shoulder much, if not all, of that cost, though there could be some sort of small activation fee. T-Mobile phones that operate on 2G technology will not need to be replaced by AT&T phones in order to work on the network.

This is ridiculous.
posted by teraflop


That info appears to be completely from the USA Today writer's imagination, not based on any actual factual information about how the transition will be handled. When AT&T and Cingular combined (various times) there was no forced transition (maybe eventually there would be one? I was still using a Cingular sim card until two weeks ago), and if you don't like it, you can always get out of your plan with no early termination fee when a merger or buyout like this happens. If the AT&T tech isn't compatible, they would be more likely to phase it slowly, not just one day force you to change immediately.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:41 PM on March 20, 2011


Since it hasn't been said....noooooooooooooooo!

Now with that out of the way, I'll need to start on a letter to the FCC and DoJ.
posted by MikeKD at 11:41 PM on March 20, 2011


TwelveTwo writes "Do I really need a cell phone?"

Probably not. I manage just fine without one and spend about a $1 a month on making calls away from home; mostly when I'm at the hospital. I'm rapidly approaching GOML age though so YMMV.
posted by Mitheral at 11:53 PM on March 20, 2011


I was a Cingular customer and have been with AT&T since they were bought out. Never had a problem. In fact, my new iPhone 4 (which I got in January) actually gets a better signal in my house and keeps calls going that my old phone (a Sony Ericsson Z750) would have dropped.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:58 PM on March 20, 2011


Don't interfere with the free market, even if its natural tendency is towards monopoly.
posted by benzenedream at 12:27 AM on March 21, 2011


Ma Cell
posted by Jacqueline at 12:45 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've really been liking Virgin Mobile for my cell, which uses Sprint's network. The few times I've had issues they've been very quick to fix them, and their website services are great.
posted by Evilspork at 1:13 AM on March 21, 2011


Well, I feel bad but I'm happy about what this means for me as a customer of the quite evil AT&T as far as the network goes. If I were still a T-Mobile customer I'd be happy for the same reason, perhaps even more so.

I think it's unfortunate that there is a very large advantage to monopolies in the US for the wireless industry: it's tough to force many towers on cities (the NIMBYism has been getting worse recently, too, it seems), and the way we divvy up frequency ranges. A diverse marketplace in the US means a bunch of lousy carriers. I'm not sure exactly what the perfect solution is, but one is necessary.

Clearwire would seem to be evidence to the contrary — they seem to be a newcomer that's easily flourishing, but it really didn't start working until they got sucked up by Sprint.

You can also have a bunch of smaller companies by not focusing on nationwide coverage, and letting different companies kick ass at individual areas and somehow make sure roaming is fine (not easy, with companies innovating with different frequencies, technologies, etc.), but even then you're stuck with regional monopolies, and we all know how those work out.
posted by floam at 1:19 AM on March 21, 2011


But, I think the solution probably involves software radios and making sure carriers share towers.
posted by floam at 1:31 AM on March 21, 2011


A diverse marketplace in the US means a bunch of lousy carriers. I'm not sure exactly what the perfect solution is, but one is necessary.

Recognize that communications networks are essential services and nationalize them. They already are in near-total collusion with the state, I can't imagine what difference it would make, service-wise.
posted by mek at 2:06 AM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Imho, there are two basic rules that everyone who travels internationally or likes smart phones should follow :

- Avoid carriers like Verizon, Sprint, MetroPCS, etc. that employ Qualcomm's shitty "ass rape the consumers though device lock-in" technology, i.e. buy only GSM phones. Note the rows for note the operator locking and intellectual property on that table.

- Avoid the most monopolistic of the GSM carriers too, i.e. AT&T.

It follows that this acquisition presents a very big problem. It'll suck ass if all the interesting foreign phones, traditionally better than phones available in the U.S., are now only usable on AT&T and their virtual carriers.

To clarify, I'm happy that multiple mobile standards exist in the U.S. I'd personally never acquiesce to the Qualcomm's evil ESN lock-in shit, but they help keep the GSM technology companies like Nokia in-line.

You should also oppose this deal if you own significant stock in Microsoft. We know the best hardware running Windows Phone 7 will come from Nokia, making it GSM only.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:45 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I dropped my droid at a gas station last week, and was 20 miles down the road before I realized it. All I could think about was that someone (at a gas station in a shaky part of town) now had my phone, access to my e/mail, could post on all my social networking accounts, photo accounts, tumbler, and even metafilter (did I say anything bad last week? if so, it wasn't me!) , and, if they tried hard enough, might be able to get into my bank account. Holy crap!

When I got to the meeting I was attending, I e/mailed my secretary. She e/mailed me back, said someone had found it, tracked me down through my "recent call" log, and would be dropping it off later that day when they got off work..

Thanks to one of the last surviving good people in the world, I got my droid back... But, I am giving very serious thought to either dumping the cell altogether or getting a no frills, basic, emergency plan phone.
posted by tomswift at 3:21 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has someone started a "1 million strong against the AT&T & T-Mobile merger" facebook group yet?
posted by delmoi at 3:28 AM on March 21, 2011


tomswift: Or, just get one you can wipe remotely. I'm surprised you can't with the Droid. Blackberries and iPhones can.
posted by floam at 3:43 AM on March 21, 2011


I stopped using my cell phone months ago due to unemployment and the need for less noise in my life. I don't miss it at all, and don't intend to go back.

It's this kind of big biz shat that makes me want to just go off-grid entirely.
posted by sundrop at 3:48 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


tomswift: Or, just get one you can wipe remotely. I'm surprised you can't with the Droid. Blackberries and iPhones can.

Android phones can as well. My G1 was snatched from a restaurant table 3 weeks after I purchased it, this time two years ago and the first thing the T-Mobile customer service did for me was wipe the phone.

This blows. Two days ago I purchased a G2 and upgraded my contract for two years. Fuck.
posted by piratebowling at 3:51 AM on March 21, 2011


Thanks to one of the last surviving good people in the world, I got my droid back.

Pshaw, I've had my cell phones returned to my 3 cabbies and one total Samaritan in the last decade, in New York, DC, and San Fran, as quickly as possible, and with proffered rewards refused (even where great efforts were made) in all but one case. And he was reluctant to take the happiest $50 I ever parted with.

I've paid it forward by returning found phones at maximum speed and effort twice now.

If we all did this the bastards would start to lose. There are more honest people out there than we sometimes think. Also, I think these days anyone can relate to the terror of losing your smartphone and empathize fully to the point of going all out for the sake of pure cosmic kharma.
posted by spitbull at 4:23 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been avoiding AT&T for years given their (and Verizon's) willingness to sell their customers out to the NSA without so much as a warrant. Have perhaps been deluding myself that T-Mobile was better, certainly has better service. No place non-evil to go now I guess :-(
posted by leslies at 4:23 AM on March 21, 2011


Does this mean that I might finally be able to make a phone call with my iPhone that won't get dropped? If not, I don't really care.
posted by TurkishGolds at 4:26 AM on March 21, 2011


Well, part of it is that 1) it's easy to identify the owner of a cellphone and return it and 2) most people wouldn't know what to do with a misappropriated cellphone anyway. I mean, if you found an MP3 player, or some cash or whatever, you could use it. But what use is a cellphone that's not yours?

Maybe some users have the technical knowledge to wipe a cellphone and assign it to a new account, but not most people.
posted by delmoi at 4:31 AM on March 21, 2011


Oh sign me up as a Tmobile fan with fear of government reasons, although I really like the customer service, which has declined a bit but always been surprising, like one little good secret corner of a shitty world of commerce. Yeah, their network is weak, but on the other hand they make roaming free when I am in the very rural place I often work, work with my occasional international needs, and support Nokia gsm handsets, which suck ass now (I think this deal means they are done for in the us) but which remain as I have always required my sidearm to be: utterly reliable and utterly indestructible under extreme conditions. Being my phone is not fun.

I'm gonna work to oppose this even though it's surely one more lost battle in the war on working people. One reason I liked Tmobile was that it was foreign owned, although I'm not Germany's biggest fan either.

America is already lost, boys.


At least my bank is still Canadian.
posted by spitbull at 4:35 AM on March 21, 2011


I'm ready to retire the iPhone. I really don't see how any of this technology is making my life better.

Huh. I refer to mine as my flying car. I'm not thrilled about companies gobbling one another up until there's no companies left, but 6 months into iPhone land, and it has better reception than my old Nokia dumbfone™ and is so much more useful in so many ways. I had one problem related to data the first day, called ATT, got a human on the phone who knew what the problem was & fixed it in 5 minutes. I really have no customer service complaints, and this little device seems to be built like an Acme brick.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:37 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


What that means is that all of the T-Mobile customers using 3G phones will need to switch to AT&T phones at that time.

haveanicesummer: That info appears to be completely from the USA Today writer's imagination, not based on any actual factual information about how the transition will be handled.


We were just switched from Alltel to AT&T due to their merger/service-rollover-in-our-area, and we all were forced to get new phones. A crappier phone, in fact, than the one I have now -- if we wanted to upgrade to any other phone like an Android or Blackberry, there were a bunch of hoops to jump through and money to be spent. The USA Today's writer may be just looking at recent history of how AT&T handled migrating service, or maybe AT&T told them it was standard operating practice.

I should mention: the deadline before we absolutely had to pick out a new phone or bad things would happen was at the end of January. Still haven't actually received the new phone yet; my order is "processing" according to the AT&T website.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:39 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


my old Nokia dumbfone™

They're called 'feature' phones.
posted by delmoi at 4:56 AM on March 21, 2011


Dear AT&T,

Please leave Sprint alone. I get TWO HTC Evo 4g smartphone plans with unlimited EVERYTHING for less than $140. As much as I love this phone, that also includes a Swype keyboard that I happen to be typing on now, if you acquired Sprint and limited my service for more money like you do your other customers, I would have to cancel everything and revert back to rotary phones and paper maps.

Sincerely,
Happy Sprint Customer
posted by Malice at 5:25 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


delmoi: "I am in exactly the same place. I left Cingular once AT&T took it over and the suckitude and corp F-U, began to pervade all the small type

Actually, Cingular bought AT&T wireless and decided to take the name for themselves.
"

This has no clear citation on Wikipedia, but appears to invalidate your assertion:
The sale received US government approval and closed on October 26. The AT&T Wireless brand was retired by Cingular on April 26, 2005, six months after the close of the merger. This was per a pre spin-off agreement with AT&T Corp. that stated that if AT&T Wireless was to be bought by a competitor, the rights to the name AT&T Wireless and the use of the AT&T name in wireless phone service would revert back to AT&T Corp.
posted by mkb at 5:31 AM on March 21, 2011


" . . .to take the happiest $50 I ever parted with."


As Guy Clark might have it, I probably should have said "second happiest $50 I ever spent in my life."

But no, I don't think the urge to return a cell phone results from lack of utility of the device. First, you might have (temporary) access to someone's identity, worth a lot more on the black market than an iPhone. Second, it is often not that easy to identify the owner of a cell phone and return it. It can involve making calls to the most recent numbers dialed or the service operator, and then contacting that person, setting up a meeting (or I once fedexed one to someone, completely on trust, and received a check and a thank you card a day later), and sometimes going well out of your way (had a cabbie once return mine to the DC Marriott from somewhere way out in the NoVa suburbs, and he refused a reward adamantly). If you didn't want it yourself, you still wouldn't go through that kind of hassle without some level of empathy.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:31 AM on March 21, 2011


For those T-Mobile customers wondering about how the merger will affect their contracts and pricing, T-Mobile has posted an FAQ on their website. It says they will "honor all contracted plans that are entered into before the change of ownership."
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 5:33 AM on March 21, 2011


Laying out a 4G network is expensive.

Once. It's expensive once, then it isn't expensive any more because it's built.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:39 AM on March 21, 2011


Obama got a cool 300k from AT&T back in 2008 and I'm sure he'll be looking for more next year now that they can contribute to him directly. You can call this basically a corporate shakedown.
posted by any major dude at 5:42 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, that T-Mobile FAQ says: "Also, because of our compatible networks and spectrum, the customers of T-Mobile USA and AT&T will experience improved voice and data service almost immediately after the networks are integrated."

I don't know how to interpret that. As far as I know, the two carriers' GSM networks are interoperable, but their 3G (UMTS) bands are not. (T-Mobile uses the 1700MHz band; AT&T uses 1900MHz; most phone models only support one or the other.) Guess we'll just have to wait and see.
posted by teraflop at 5:43 AM on March 21, 2011


Sure Civil_Disobedient, but it looks like they were going to avoid that one-time cost and instead spend a whole lot less on marketing and a stingy upgrade to their existing 3G network. And keeping up to date is really not just some one-time capital investment like building a railroad or something. There's always something new coming down the tubes, and in several years it's going to be time to lay out the new whatzit 5G network.
posted by floam at 5:49 AM on March 21, 2011


Yeah, teraflop. The only instant upgrade is likely to be on voice GSM, and even then I imagine it could only be the 1900 MHz band that often phones don't use in cities since 850MHz seems to penetrate buildings better.

In the long-run, I imagine they'll upgrade T-Mobile facilities, but that's probably going to be a slow piecemeal thing.
posted by floam at 5:55 AM on March 21, 2011


That FAQ makes me wonder about their non-contracted plans. The wording dodges nicely around those so we're probably hosed.
posted by leslies at 5:55 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to point and laugh, but then I remembered that I live in Canada, where 3 year contracts are the norm, and competition seems to be a dirty word.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:58 AM on March 21, 2011


There is a related spectrum fight.

We should simply cap how much spectrum may functionally be controlled by any given entity, effectively blocking any mergers of existing mobile networks. And maybe spectrum ownership into leases with the option to compel new leasers to lease existing infrastructure
posted by jeffburdges at 6:18 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


This money AT&T had sloshing about couldn't have gone on fixing their godawful network? Capitalism is weird.
posted by bonaldi at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2011


We have a pay-as-you go Tracphone and nothing else. It makes and receives phone calls (as well as texts, though we almost never do that.) We're not beholden to any company and it's crazy cheap. We use it for traveling and to have on us in case of emergency.

Believe it or not, people once led very happy, fulfilling lives without having a phone and crib toy with them 24/7.
posted by Legomancer at 6:21 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sounds good, Legomancer, but next time it would be nice if you didn't imply the other users in the thread were, you know, babies.
posted by jtron at 6:28 AM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Believe it or not, people once led very happy, fulfilling lives without having a phone and crib toy with them 24/7.

Oh, ha-ha! Dismissal of others' preferences! On top of that, an insult!

You are so wise, Legomancer. May I study your infinite wisdom at your feet?

Pretty please?

With sugar on top?
posted by grubi at 6:29 AM on March 21, 2011


I wonder what ARPUs in the US are like?
posted by infini at 6:30 AM on March 21, 2011


Disclaimer found it online in a quick google search figures:

AT&T : $50.69
Cincinnati Bell : $43.89
Leap Wireless : $38.66
MetroPCS : $40.70
nTelos Wireless : $51.48
Sprint : $49.26
T-Mobile : $46.00
US Cellular : $53.55
Verizon Wireless : $50.23

Overall ARPU for Q4 ’09 : $49.31 (down from $50.61 in Q3 ’09)


So, does this mean prices will go up?
posted by infini at 6:36 AM on March 21, 2011


Well Legomancer some of us use smartphones for work and find them very useful. I don't think that forcing people to go back to simpler tech because of obnoxious corporate behavior is a net win for society, business or individuals.

The era of breaking up companies or preventing mergers for anti-trust issues seems to have ended years ago without a backwards glance by regulators.
posted by leslies at 6:46 AM on March 21, 2011


This money AT&T had sloshing about couldn't have gone on fixing their godawful network? Capitalism is weird.


This is just a way to do that, with the added benefit of removing a competitor, making the market effectively a duopoly. Of course the question now is can AT&T and Verizon act like duopolists, or is mobile telephony a business where marginal costs are so low even 2 real players (And a 3 minor player) are enough to keep people honest. Certainly in fixed line that's the case.

The group that is well and truly screwed are those of us who use their GSM phone outside of the US. Might as well jack those rates up today.
posted by JPD at 6:55 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


AP: according to AT&T, phones would have to be replaced. Meanwhile, according to Tmo, they wouldn't. Great.
posted by pernoctalian at 7:19 AM on March 21, 2011


I have been a happy T-Mobile customer for years, and it is mostly because of their customer service. Ugh.
posted by vibrotronica at 7:26 AM on March 21, 2011


When the majority of an audience can sit through a movie or play without having to have their phone out and active, I'll be happy to not refer to them as crib toys.
posted by Legomancer at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2011


This money AT&T had sloshing about couldn't have gone on fixing their godawful network? Capitalism is weird.

Well, this will 'fix' their network by taking over all of T-Mobile's towers.

btw, If you want to switch to a company that's not super evil, you could try Creedo Mobile, which donates to progressive causes. $2m last year. Apparently they pay out 1%

Unfortunately their phone selection totally sucks. They use sprint's network.

posted by delmoi at 7:43 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I understood T-Mobile's 3G network to be incompatible with AT&Ts. Are the towers such that they can be transformed into AT&T ones? That makes a bit more sense.
posted by bonaldi at 7:46 AM on March 21, 2011


mkb wrote: "delmoi: "I am in exactly the same place. I left Cingular once AT&T took it over and the suckitude and corp F-U, began to pervade all the small type

Actually, Cingular bought AT&T wireless and decided to take the name for themselves.
"

This has no clear citation on Wikipedia, but appears to invalidate your assertion:
The sale received US government approval and closed on October 26. The AT&T Wireless brand was retired by Cingular on April 26, 2005, six months after the close of the merger. This was per a pre spin-off agreement with AT&T Corp. that stated that if AT&T Wireless was to be bought by a competitor, the rights to the name AT&T Wireless and the use of the AT&T name in wireless phone service would revert back to AT&T Corp.
"


Wikipedia is correct, sort of, but it doesn't mean what you think it means. Cingular bought AT&T Wireless and stayed Cingular (and SBC and Bellsouth kept their arrangement the same). Later, SBC bought AT&T and renamed themselves at&t. Still later, SBC bought BellSouth, gaining 100% control of Cingular and renamed Cingular at&t.

So, while not technically correct, delmoi's version of events is closer to the truth than what you gleaned from Wikipedia. (that AT&T didn't do the buying either time around)
posted by wierdo at 7:46 AM on March 21, 2011


> Believe it or not, people once led very happy, fulfilling lives without having a phone and crib toy with them 24/7.

That's lovely. I'm going to tell that to my corporate Blackberry users who enjoy not having to take their laptop on the road just to check email.

I hope this deal falls through. T-Mobile is currently the best option we have for my company, based on travel needs, device selection, and plan usage. AT&T can burn in hell.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:48 AM on March 21, 2011


Once. It's expensive once, then it isn't expensive any more because it's built.

Until whatever the thing beyond 4G is! In 2007 we were all on Edge. Now it's not quite 4 years later and we're mostly 3G nationwide--and if you get into rural places you're still on Edge, which happened to me earlier this month--and we're worrying about how to upgrade to 4G. How long is 4G going to hold before people are looking for a new and better network? The demand for more and faster mobile bandwidth is not going to decrease and it's going to be a perpetual expense to build out new networks to keep up with it. This is why I think it should be a regulated public utility instead of the duopoly + Sprint we're about to get, or worse, duopoly without extra Sprint when Verizon makes the obvious response.

(Full disclosure: spouse works for AT&T, not in the mobile phone division, but as a consequence of his job has some contact with them and bandwidth/mobile tech issues are a topic of interest at our house. Also an AT&T customer, love my iPhone, have been fucked over by their customer service in the past, but have been fucked over worse by Verizon.)
posted by immlass at 7:56 AM on March 21, 2011


btw, If you want to switch to a company that's not super evil, you could try Creedo Mobile, which donates to progressive causes. $2m last year. Apparently they pay out 1%

Creedo (a Sprint MVNO) may donate a small portion of their profits to nice causes, but I was a customer of theirs back when they were "Working Assets Wireless" (this was actually my first cell phone, aunt got it started for me.) They turned into Creedo the last few months I was a customer. Well, they REALLY sucked. Their phone selection was shit, their customer service was TERRIBLE. They literally made a billing error that resulted in me getting bills in the mail that were charging me hundreds of dollars extra, and they said month after month they'd fix it, and they never did. I didn't think that kind of thing actually ever happened. And then I dropped my phone in the washing machine and it died, and they had zero options for less than $250 retail price for a shitty three year old LG dumbphone. And of course with CDMA, you can't just buy some used phone for $15 and easily slide your SIM card in and call it good. Their CSRs would not budge on anything, ever. And I was a good guy that paid his bill in full early early every month electronically. Also, their phones never received over-the-air updates despite the Sprint ones doing so. They just sucked, sucked, sucked. I'm not sure if this was just them, or MVNOs in general, but it was a terrible two years.

Seriously, there's no reason not to just go with Sprint directly, get a better deal, a better phone, and better customer service, and donate the whole whopping forty cents a month they were donating to charity on your behalf yourself.

But this was 2006, YMMV.
posted by floam at 8:22 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is bullshit! I've been with T-Mobile since the beginning; I suffered through the Bad Times, the virtually-no-network-coverage times, the worst-phones-on-the-market times, the what's-a-smartphone? times, all because their prices were good and their customer support was just spectacular.

(No seriously, let this be a lesson to companies: I stuck with substandard service in a lot of other areas because I was treated so well. It really mattered to me.)

And now, now that they've turned it all around, and my patience was fully rewarded with awesome phones, still good prices, and continued customer service excellence (ok, the coverage is still pretty "meh" in some areas, but with wifi-calling (UMA) any wireless hotspot means I have crystal clear reception), but now I have to lose them to AT&T?

Fuck that.
posted by quin at 8:23 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


and they never did.
Er, well actually they did, after the said months and months.

posted by floam at 8:25 AM on March 21, 2011


T.D. Strange: "Ma Bell"

If we're going to have Ma Bell again, can we at least get back a version of Bell Labs that isn't a vague shadow of its former self? Please?
posted by JMOZ at 8:26 AM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I had one problem related to data the first day ...

Yeah, me too, as in AT&T forces you to take a data plan with an iPhone whether you want it or not.

I've filed antitrust "tying arrangement" complaints with the US and CT attorney generals offices.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:01 AM on March 21, 2011


I'm in this industry and here's some observations:

Organic growth in mobile subscribers has stalled in the US market as we've reached saturation. Growth is coming from (a) new connected devices, (b) stealing customers from your competitors, and (c) acquiring competitors.

As mobile data and smartphones have taken off, T-Mobile found itself in a tough spot without the additional spectrum to launch LTE services. (Last month it was rumored to be in a deal with Clearwire, which is partly owned by Sprint, to purchase some of Clearwire's spectrum assets). The rumored T-Mo/Sprint tie up didn't make any sense to me--their network technology is incompatible (though the future roadmap is not) and Sprint cratered after it acquired Nextel, in part because of incompatible network technology.

Deutsche Telekom is obviously concerned about a possible regulatory blockage of the deal which is why they insisted on the $3B breakup fee. AT&T is working hard to position this as a required move to close the digital divide, promising that with the acquisition they will be able to deliver 4G connectivity to 95% of the US population, a broader swath they claim then they could accomplish on their own.

I've seen several people up thread mention alternative carriers to the big four (soon to be three). Here's a helpful list. An "MVNO" is a standalone company that rents network access from someone else, Tracfone and Credo are in this category. There are also several brands that are wholly owned by big carriers such as Boost and Virgin.

Good piece on regulatory context and (declining) competitiveness in the industry which notes that regulators are likely to scrutinize the deal on a market by market basis.

I agree with this piece which nicely sums up the losers in the deal (pretty much everybody that's not AT&T).
posted by donovan at 9:11 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also an AT&T customer, love my iPhone, have been fucked over by their customer service in the past, but have been fucked over worse by Verizon.)
Maybe it would be better to have more then two choices!!!!
posted by delmoi at 9:26 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Donovan that second article is both excellent and very discouraging. Exactly why it would be better for T-Mobile to stay independent!
posted by leslies at 9:31 AM on March 21, 2011


The sense of competitive Deja Vu here is just overwhelming.

But as far as this deal is concerned, don't let the $3B breakup fee fool you. The deal is win-win for AT&T. The worst possible outcome here is neutering a competitor for a few years, by keeping them focused on a regulatory circus rather than actively competing (or merging with Sprint and forming an even more dangerous competitor).
posted by zeypher at 9:42 AM on March 21, 2011


JMOZ: "If we're going to have Ma Bell again, can we at least get back a version of Bell Labs that isn't a vague shadow of its former self? Please?"

Maybe the current owners, AlcaTel-lucenT can get a license to use the AT&T trademark.
posted by mkb at 9:47 AM on March 21, 2011


Instead of smartphones, everyone in my family has two devices, a very basic TracFone and an iPod Touch.

Now, we are outliers- we live in a place with nearly ubiquitous wifi and very spotty, generally poor cell reception. The reason we went with TracFones is because they actually have good coverage here. iPhones here take so long to load on the crappy Edge network I really don't know why anyone bothers.

Just in case anyone can actually ditch their smartphone and wants alternatives, I thought I'd mention this.
posted by Leta at 9:49 AM on March 21, 2011


via reddit...
posted by delmoi at 10:14 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


We call it the Death Star.
posted by immlass at 10:29 AM on March 21, 2011


I just sent emails to the DOJ, FCC, my representative and senators.

Here's what I sent:
Hello,

I am writing to oppose the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. If allowed to proceed, the choice for customers is effectively narrowed to two very expensive options: Verizon or AT&T. Instead of an ecosystem of four national carriers, each with their own strengths, we'd be left with two similar and monopolistic companies.

The situation as I see it now is this:
AT&T: Premium GSM, expensive, strength is its partnerships (Apple)
Verizon: Premium CDMA, expensive, strength is its network, smartphone choices
T-Mobile: Budget GSM, inexpensive, strength is its cost, customer service and prepaid business
Sprint: Budget CDMA, inexpensive, strength is data speeds

If the merger is allowed to proceed, Sprint will almost certainly need to find a buyer, as it will be completely unable to compete on spectrum and network upgrades. The entire lower cost half of the market would go away.

I urge you to block this proposed merger on the grounds that it will harm competition, eliminate choices and raise costs for American cellular phone customers.

Thank you,
letitrain
posted by letitrain at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is so disheartening is so many ways. We as Americans have lost sight of the 'American Dream'. What happened to possibility of prosperity and success? There is no chance for small companies to ever compete against these monopolies. The sad thing is that many people don't realize this only hurts us in the long run. Price fixing is a very real danger in cases such as this. Welcome to the ‘cell phone cartel’ where all that matters is an increase in profit margins year after year.
posted by tragedy at 10:43 AM on March 21, 2011


mkb: "Maybe the current owners, AlcaTel-lucenT can get a license to use the AT&T trademark."

mkb- I don't really care what logo is on the door or who owns it or whether it's located in Murray Hill or anything of the sort. I'd just like to see some fraction of massive corporate profits (coming from a virtual monopoly) re-invested in research. I don't mean product development; I mean longer-range research of the sort that's losing all funding in the US.

While my comment might sound like a joke, I'm deadly serious. The US doesn't have much of a manufacturing base to speak of; our real exports to the rest of the world are (1) screwy financial systems, (2) entertainment (Hollywood movies, music, etc.), and (3) innovation/ideas. I'm pretty sure that (1) should be a thing of the past. Sadly, given our reduced focus on research (there's plenty of development work, but only on things with an obvious payoff in a few years or less), we're losing on (3).

We're going to have a hard time "Winning the future" if we're investing less in creating ideas than the rest of the world. (For comparison, in my field, startup funds for assistant professors in China are often 3-4 times those in the US in real dollars, and the cost-of-doing-business is MUCH higher in the US.) At the same time, funding rates for research proposals are incredibly low compared to the rest of the world. At the same time, Congress is talking about cuts in research funding. Sure, the economy is bad, and I understand that the Republicans have been given free reign to set an agenda which focuses on cutting funding everywhere. This is, at least nominally, to support business. Fine- then for the love of America's chance at remaining relevant in the future, can we get business to support future innovation? Otherwise, we're going to be left with America as nothing but the jester to the world.

I realize this is a bit aside of the main topic of this thread, and I apologize if it's viewed as a derail. At the same time, supporters of this merger will point to the free market as a justification. I don't want to get into that debate, but I do want to point out these little-discussed consequences of that free market. Bell Labs funded real Science because it was encouraged to do so, and despite the problems with Ma Bell, there were real benefits. Not so much with modern big business.
posted by JMOZ at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


in several years it's going to be time to lay out the new whatzit 5G network.

Which they will only roll out in selective areas to be determined based on a combination of low data usage and high property value. See also: FIOS.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:25 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


(I know that's not mobile. The principles are still the same.)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:26 AM on March 21, 2011


For what it's worth I seem to remember LTE being a 20-25 year plan. The letters stand for Long Term Evolution.
posted by polyhedron at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2011


Yeah, I'm no industry expert but I'd wager we'll see a much larger gap between 4G and "5G" than there was between 3G and 4G. When high powered, always-on tablet computer with some kind of WIMAX service become as common as ordinary smartphones, and people use them for work, play, and home, then we'll start to see a fuller utilization of the capabilities that 4G offers.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:35 AM on March 21, 2011


CAN YOU FEAR ME NOW? 
posted by blue_beetle at 12:11 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Announcing the marriage of AT&T and T Mobile sometime in 2010. There will be no reception following.
posted by Kokopuff at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


We were just switched from Alltel to AT&T due to their merger/service-rollover-in-our-area, and we all were forced to get new phones. A crappier phone, in fact, than the one I have now -- if we wanted to upgrade to any other phone like an Android or Blackberry, there were a bunch of hoops to jump through and money to be spent. The USA Today's writer may be just looking at recent history of how AT&T handled migrating service, or maybe AT&T told them it was standard operating practice.
posted by AzraelBrown


As far as I can tell, Alltel was CDMA, so they were never planning on integrating them (and apparently AT&T only bought a small portion of Alltel, with Verizon buying most if it a couple years before that).

Of course some customers may be harmed by this if they're T-Mobile, but if you have a contract, they void it if they change it (you can get out of a 2 year agreement if they even change the price of text messages). Now could actually be a good time to get a T-Mobile account if you want to play the upgrade game and get discounts to extend sooner than you might normally (or be allowed out of your contract early if they do change the terms).
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:46 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


At the same time, supporters of this merger will point to the free market as a justification. I don't want to get into that debate, but I do want to point out these little-discussed consequences of that free market.

Well, the "free" in free market has everything to do with what the businesses are allowed to do, and nothing to do with whether consumers have any actual freedoms.
posted by hippybear at 1:03 PM on March 21, 2011


Recognize that communications networks are essential services and nationalize them.

That is working awesome for roads.
posted by fusinski at 1:20 PM on March 21, 2011


Allegedly, ATT plans on re-purposing the T-Mobile 3G bands for LTE, meaning that anyone with a T-Mobile 3G phone would need to replace it. That's an awful lot of phones that suddenly become so much expensive near-trash if the deal goes through.

ATT has supposedly set aside funds to somehow assist with phone replacements, but does anyone really believe that the "replacement" phones won't come with strings attached? Forced re-contracting and the like? I certainly don't. (Apparently when they took over Suncom, the legacy Suncom customers lost their plans and phones in the switch, so I assume T-Mobile customers will be given a similar devil's bargain, and most won't be able to afford to refuse.)

Honestly this seems like about the worst thing to happen to the U.S. mobile market since carrier-locked phones ... it's yet another thing that's going to put us behind the rest of the world in terms of features and price, and ensure that wireless services are a luxury good rather than the core of an information economy that they should be.

The blame, however, can't really be left at the feet of AT&T; the blame -- if the deal goes through, which seems the safe bet at the moment -- will be on the regulators, who will have failed so spectacularly in their task that they might as well not exist.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:26 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is working awesome for roads.

What's wrong with roads? Roads are awesome.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the ‘cell phone cartel’ where all that matters is an increase in profit margins year after year. Canada.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm just chronically depressed again (I thought I'd beat it about a decade ago), but I've been feeling for the last couple of years that this country passed the point of no return on turning into a corporate-owned dystopia where education matters least, bread and circuses rule the day, and fewer and fewer people control more and more resources. Then I sometimes can distract myself from such thoughts for a while and be reasonably OK and not utterly impossible to live with . . . for a bit.

Then shit like this happens to remind me that that isn't the case. These fuckers wiretapped American citizens, and they're rewarded. (Oh, I know the merger is pending approval, etc., but face it -- it'll happen.) There was one carrier that tried to be at least a wee bit innovative (by the lame standards of cell carriers in the US, anyway), have decent customer service, fair prices, actually did have the fastest data network in the country, and oh -- by the way, they're on record as stating that they did not participate in the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program. Sure, maybe back home in Germany, the parent company doesn't run T-Mobile there as such a warm and fuzzy entity, but their US counterpart is pretty damn decent.

Well, they couldn't sit by and let that happen, I suppose. And if all the palm-greasing, lobbying, and backroom deals aren't enough for this to sail through, the fact that T-Mobile spurned the NSA will be the final nail in the coffin.

I own an independent Apple reseller. I have an iPhone, but never used it on AT&T, the main reason being the NSA bullshit. As an Apple reseller, we have loyalty to Apple, but not to AT&T. Since we can't sell the iPhone anyway, this really never became an issue. The sad irony in all this is that to some extent, part of the reason T-Mobile was put in a position where they had to seek a suitor was because of Apple and its goddamn exclusivity deal with AT&T, the length of which was unheard of before. (3.5 years? Insane.)

I've always had a thing for underdogs (unless they just suck and are deservedly underdogs), which explains my initial attraction to Apple in the mid-'90s. (Yeah, bad bad times for them back then.) It's why I've stuck with T-Mobile since 2004. (I know, I know -- they aren't exactly "underdogs" in much of Europe. Great, but I don't live in Europe.)

Some years ago, I came up with the expression "money flocks to evil." You can't do the right thing in this society and get ahead. And this is but example 4,396,293. This year alone.

You wiretap, in clear violation of the constitution, and nothing can touch you. Thanks to shitty education and an utter lack of any decent civics knowledge in this country, people complain more about crappy coverage, slow 3G speeds, and high prices than about the violation of very fundamental privacy rights.

Remind me again why the fuck I'm even bothering to be a honest businessman.
posted by CommonSense at 2:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Maybe I'm just chronically depressed again (I thought I'd beat it about a decade ago), but I've been feeling for the last couple of years that this country passed the point of no return on turning into a corporate-owned dystopia where education matters least, bread and circuses rule the day, and fewer and fewer people control more and more resources.

No, that's not depression. That's a pretty accurate assessment of the state of affairs these days.
posted by hippybear at 3:06 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


You wiretap, in clear violation of the constitution, and nothing can touch you.

Hey now. Wiretapping captured major threats to the USA* like Eliot Spitzer.

*United States financial chicanery industries and other Assholes
posted by benzenedream at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2011


That is working awesome for roads.

Were roads nationalized? I didn't realize there was a time when they were privately managed. Anyways, where I live and most places I've been governments do a pretty good job of it, frankly. I have far fewer complaints about roads than I do about cell phone service.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume that came from a tax-cut-candidate voter who can't understand why there's all these damned potholes everywhere!
posted by Hoopo at 3:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Were roads nationalized? I didn't realize there was a time when they were privately managed.

I didn't realize it either, but then I was poking around a bit to see if I was mistaken, and apparently there was a time when a lot of what we regard as public infrastructure was, in fact, private. This is a very ugly .pdf, but it's a fascinating read.
posted by hippybear at 4:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wasn't the toll road at the end of Oregon Trail privately owned? I mean, that's why I forded the river.
posted by maryr at 4:03 PM on March 21, 2011


You wiretap, in clear violation of the constitution, and nothing can touch you.

Speaking of wiretapping: Court allows constitutional challenge to new FISA law
posted by homunculus at 5:33 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


There isn't any reason for monopolies on any communications services whether nationally owned, non-profit, or private. Road are otoh the quintessential natural monopoly.

We need strong net neutrality regulations that (a) keep the ISP away from the content business and (b) make them rent out their infrastructure to small competitors at reasonable rates. You know, even state owned ISPs might throttle your bittorrent, kill your internet startup, filter your porn, etc.

There should also be a fundamental right to minimal internet access that applies to everyone in a populated area, including the penniless, the homeless, prison inmates, etc. You might provide this through municipal wifi. Or you might require that wireless providers needed to provide some minimal service even to ex-customers. We currently only provide this basic necessity through libraries, but you know poor people own their own computers too.

Ideally, we want some government backed wireless and landline network providers, a couple interesting non-profit ISPs, and numerous commercial ones too.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


While my comment might sound like a joke, I'm deadly serious. The US doesn't have much of a manufacturing base to speak of;
I have no idea what a manufacturing "base" is supposed to be, but an enormous amount of manufacturing is done in the U.S. today then at any time in history. More then in the 1970s or 60s or any other time. The main difference is the amount of automation, resulting in fewer people producing more stuff (measured in dollars, anyway)

I'm so tired of this "there's no manufacturing done in the U.S" crap. Just because the cellphone in your pocket wasn't made in the U.S. doesn't mean that the machine used to make it weren't. Things like jet engines and nuclear reactors are made in the U.S. not consumer crap.

Yet, this "there's no manufacturing base" in the U.S. factoid gets thrown around all over the place as if it were just obviously true. It's not.
That is working awesome for roads.
Do you seriously think the roads would be better if they were privately maintained?

Btw, Huston has special roads for rich people. They're physically grade separated so if you're rich you don't have to deal with traffic. They're still owned by the city/state though, as far as I know.
posted by delmoi at 2:47 AM on March 22, 2011


County, actually. HCTRA is actually making toll-only lanes in the medians of existing highways.

I am so glad I looked this up, for the following line:
The Super Slab is a proposed private highway that would run from north of Fort Collins to south of Pueblo. It sparked a debate on the use of eminent domain for such purposes. Opponents proposed the Castle Rock Alternative Parkway, which would run through the home of Super Slab developer Ray Wells.
posted by mkb at 3:26 AM on March 22, 2011


delmoi: "I have no idea what a manufacturing "base" is supposed to be, but an enormous amount of manufacturing is done in the U.S. today then at any time in history. More then in the 1970s or 60s or any other time. The main difference is the amount of automation, resulting in fewer people producing more stuff (measured in dollars, anyway)

I'm so tired of this "there's no manufacturing done in the U.S" crap. Just because the cellphone in your pocket wasn't made in the U.S. doesn't mean that the machine used to make it weren't. Things like jet engines and nuclear reactors are made in the U.S. not consumer crap.

Yet, this "there's no manufacturing base" in the U.S. factoid gets thrown around all over the place as if it were just obviously true. It's not.
"

delmoi- Fair enough- there are things the US manufactures, and quite well at that. Hell, much of the scientific equipment I buy for work is manufactured in the US. The imprecision of my comment notwithstanding, however, I think my main point still stands; I believe it's probably fair to say that if the US were reliant on its (largely specialized) manufacturing to support our economy, we'd be in a lot of trouble.

In fact, your point really tends to support my main point in a more fundamental way; the things which are manufactured in the US are specialized products (i.e. the result of knowledge creation more than cheap labor costs), and so if we fair to support that knowledge creation (read: research), odds are that manufacturing will be relocated more as well. We're increasingly seeing more innovation coming from countries whose traditional economic role (within the past 50 years or so) was to make our "consumer crap," and our head start won't last forever.
posted by JMOZ at 5:26 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apple's fault. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 6:39 AM on March 22, 2011


I love it how people can say with a straight face that US manufacturing isn't dead with a half a trillion dollar current account balance deficit on the books.

Apple's fault. lol

No. Apple makes one GSM phone for the world. T-Mobile decided to run 3G on those utterly retarded AWS bands.

If anything killed T-Mobile it's because they were special snowflakes. They needed special phones to run on special 3G bands for a special country that, damn worldwide convention, allocated spectrum like Americans not like those socialist pussies in Europe. 1.9GHz for an uplink frequency is a commie plot.

The iPhone and, by extension, the entire US cellphone market is the perfect example of how moronic American exceptionalism can be sometimes.
posted by Talez at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2011


In fact, your point really tends to support my main point in a more fundamental way; the things which are manufactured in the US are specialized products (i.e. the result of knowledge creation more than cheap labor costs), and so if we fair to support that knowledge creation (read: research), odds are that manufacturing will be relocated more as well. We're increasingly seeing more innovation coming from countries whose traditional economic role (within the past 50 years or so) was to make our "consumer crap," and our head start won't last forever.

Well, consumer products are just generalized versions of specialized products. A Tube TV is just a simplified oscilloscope, for example. A lot of the consumer products we buy are designed in the US, if they're made in other countries. Intel fabricates their CPUs in other countries but the fabs are designed here in the U.S. So, we make the equipment that's used to make stuff, and we design the stuff, so it's unlikely that we'd run into a big problem if we had to make the stuff here too. That isn't to say that other countries aren't capable
posted by delmoi at 8:02 AM on March 22, 2011


A lot of the consumer products we buy are designed in the US, if they're made in other countries.

There's a LOT of light industry in the US still. Nearly every town of halfway decent size has an industrial park. It'll probably be near the airport or someplace a bit outside of town. Go out there and take a little drive through sometime. There's all kinds of things being made all the time.

I haven't even been to the industrial park in my area in a few years, but I know they have two metal foundries which make a lot of cast iron and steel products, more than a couple of fiberglass shops making everything from camper shells and boats to snowboards, several furniture manufacturers, a LOT of aluminum shaping which ends up being everything from mini-blinds to garage doors to HVAC ductwork, a plastic bottle outfit which supplies the local dairy and soda bottling plants, and a whole heap of electronics firms full of people hunched over soldering stations.

And that's just what I can recall off the top of my head, having not been out there in a while.

I think the problem is that most people think of WalMart store shelves when they think of manufactured goods, and so they don't really realize exactly how much manufacturing happens here. It's just not giant businesses like Curtis Mathis or whatever anymore. Much more small-to-medium sized businesses, churning out masses of stuff all the time.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 AM on March 22, 2011


I mostly want to know what's going to happen to the girl in the pink dress in the T-mobile commercials. I mean, if anyone's coming out of this whole thing with egg on their face, it's her.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:58 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "Well, consumer products are just generalized versions of specialized products. A Tube TV is just a simplified oscilloscope, for example. A lot of the consumer products we buy are designed in the US, if they're made in other countries. Intel fabricates their CPUs in other countries but the fabs are designed here in the U.S. So, we make the equipment that's used to make stuff, and we design the stuff, so it's unlikely that we'd run into a big problem if we had to make the stuff here too. That isn't to say that other countries aren't capable"

Agreed, we could undoubtedly make cheap stuff here. The problem is that it's not a cost-effective thing to do. There's only a few things that could cause us to produce cheap good here: (1) introduction of high tariffs/shipping charges, making importation very expensive, or (2) if it becomes cheaper to produce things here rather than elsewhere because of, basically, economic collapse. If the US were making cheap consumer goods, that would likely accompany a huge decline in standards-of-living; the US would look more like China or India than many would find tenable. I agree that the stuff made in other countries is often designed in the US, but I argue that's because the US has a head-start in innovative design. We DESIGN stuff better than, say, China, but we can't build it as cost-effectively as they can. OK, but what happens when they pass us on design? Certainly, designed-in-China and designed-in-India stuff has been improving by a huge margin; there's no reason to expect we'll remain leaders at innovation if we're investing less than they are. I don't really believe in American exceptionalism here; there's nothing that makes our design/knowledge work inherently better than theirs. We're not intrinsically more creative. So, if they invest and we don't, then we're in serious trouble.

hippybear: "There's a LOT of light industry in the US still. Nearly every town of halfway decent size has an industrial park. It'll probably be near the airport or someplace a bit outside of town. Go out there and take a little drive through sometime. There's all kinds of things being made all the time. "

That's certainly true, but light industry is NOT going to sustain a huge fraction of our economy. The metal foundries, etc. that remain in your hometown industrial area will be small-scale manufacturing for niche markets where the somewhat higher production costs are justified by things like the need for agility or rapid turnaround. They're not going to be making the next generation of iPod. Frankly, that's ok. Like I said earlier, I buy scientific equipment from small companies and my vendors often use this type of specialized, local machine shop. As research funding is cut, light industrial often suffers first. (Just like delmoi's oscilliscope manufacturer, who gets hit before the TV manufacturer.)

All in all, these industries are not exactly thriving, and even when they DO thrive, they aren't driving the economy. Sure, they help, but really, their revenues are undoubtedly in the noise when compared to large-scale industry. That means the U.S. really needs to invest in research (and research infrastructure) if we don't want to get passed by other countries who are pushing ahead at an incredibly rapid rate.
posted by JMOZ at 11:31 AM on March 22, 2011


How many foundries should I start to help us get better cellphone provider choices in the US?
posted by rhizome at 12:11 PM on March 22, 2011


Saying that the US manufacturing base isn't that bad because light industry anecdotally looks fine is like saying a gaping wound, hemorrhaging massive amounts of blood is not so bad because the spleen is in good working order.
posted by Talez at 2:23 PM on March 22, 2011


I don't think I said anywhere in my comment that the manufacturing base is in good shape. But people say all that time that we don't make anything in this country anymore, and it's just not true. I fully acknowledge that we've lost a good portion of our industry to overseas factories and we need to figure out what to do with all these people so they have an income and feel productive in their lives.
posted by hippybear at 3:09 PM on March 22, 2011


But people say all that time that we don't make anything in this country anymore, and it's just not true.

The people saying it know it's not true. It's a rhetorical device called hyperbole.
posted by Talez at 4:10 PM on March 22, 2011


I think you're giving far too much credit to the people who re-spout what they hear on television. It's the current meme, and a lot of those who pass it along don't ever really process it as they spread it.
posted by hippybear at 4:18 PM on March 22, 2011


hippybear- As the person who introduced the concept of a less-than-vital manufacturing base into this thread (Sorry, everyone!), I can promise you I realize it's not completely dead. (Actually, I never said it was dead or that America doesn't make anything; I said we don't have "much of a manufacturing base to speak of." I think that's a big distinction.) Sure, there are people who parrot what they hear on TV, but if you look, it was the defenders of America's manufacturing prowess who've engaged in hyperbole and fought a strawman here. I understand this is probably a reflexive reaction (after all, there are A LOT of parrots), but it does nothing to elevate the dialogue.

I do think this is a worthwhile discussion to have, as the changes in US manufacturing illustrate the potential problem of resting on our laurels: our laurels aren't going to support the weight for very long. Sure, America might make the best Widget X, but that won't be true forever if we don't invest the time, money, and brainpower into making Widget X better. Thinking otherwise is the most dangerous kind of American exceptionalism; the US will not be great in the future if we don't do the things that make the US great. This is tautological yet frequently overlooked.

Anyhow, just to bring things back to the topic at hand: I'm not a big fan of monopolies. That said, if they're going to be allowed, can we at least get something out of them? Something like the investment in America's future that Bell Labs provided for decades? (I'm really not sure whether it's better to ask why modern corporations don't invest in basic research (again- for the pedandic, there is SOME investment, but not really very much at all) or why companies of the past (it's not just Bell- IBM, Xerox, RCA, and countless others spring to mind) did.)

Too many parentheses. What have I become? A Lisp programmer?
posted by JMOZ at 5:31 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


China last year accounted for 19.8 per cent of world manufacturing output, fractionally ahead of the US with 19.4 per cent
posted by jtron at 6:49 AM on March 23, 2011


The other elephant in the room when it comes to manufacturing, besides labor costs, is transportation costs. The idea of outsourcing some or all of your manufacturing to China or India is built on the assumption of very cheap transportation. If that goes up much at all, the equation can change.

There was an interesting article in last month's Wired about the changing economics of outsourcing. The biggest driver of reverse-outsourcing (companies bringing manufacturing back into the US) is poor quality control in China, second was intellectual property theft, but the other one seemed to be that it just wasn't economically feasible due to increased transportation expenses. And I tend to wonder if that's not actually more of a factor but the credit gets given to one of the prior two causes because they make better pro-America soundbites when you're getting interviewed.

Of course, there's a big difference between a factory in China and one in the US; the one in the US will probably be far more automated. So moving the same factory from Asia back home won't necessarily create the same number of jobs here that it created over there, nor the same type of jobs. A factory might employ a thousand middle-class assembly workers in China or Vietnam, but might employ only a few dozen here, and then a few dozen more equipment maintenance technicians, and some programmers or process designers, etc. In general that's probably a good thing ... unless you're an uneducated worker here in the States, in which case you're pretty much obsolete. Sorry.

And in retrospect I'm not sure exactly how this relates to T-Mobile anymore.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:57 AM on March 23, 2011


So lets see if I understand this correctly, AT&T's decision to consider purchase of T-Mobile is risking America's manufacturing, engineering adn industrial future?
posted by infini at 7:59 AM on March 23, 2011


Shoot, I'm all for blaming AT&T for messing up the men's room at the front of the building this morning. Bastards.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:23 AM on March 23, 2011


8dot3: I mostly want to know what's going to happen to the girl in the pink dress in the T-mobile commercials. I mean, if anyone's coming out of this whole thing with egg on their face, it's her.

Well, what she symbolized and embodied has certainly been made a giant joke. To me she embodied the spirit of independence and ingenuity of a good company (T-Mobile) taking on the big guys. As in THE big guys in the cellphone landscape of AT&T and APPPLE, and providing equal, and many times superior service to what they were offering at a fairer price and with real responsive and flexible customer service, neither one of them could hold a candle to. She was as cool as the "Apple guy" taking on "PC." Without the Apple guys smarmy superiority complex.

She and T-Mobile kicked ass, quietly and effectively, so going with T-mobile for me and many people, was a consumer lifestyle choice and identity and there was a promise implicit in going with T-Mobile that you were saying something, you were expressing as it were a mode of thinking and a way of living and even a philosophy.

As I understand it, thanks to the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United, money and the way it is spent, is a form of free expression, and companies have the same rights, and therefore responsibilities as people, in that regard. With that in mind I say that T-Mobile is negligent in upholding it's part of a contract it made with it's customers, expressing themselves with their money and establishing that most crucial of all things: A consumer identity and a lifestyle according to the aspects by which T-Mobile represented itself.

I'm not entirely joking when I suggest there is room here for a massive multi-tiered class action suit:

First on T-Mobile's contractual negation and negligence in keeping to the branding it put out of itself, as the Anti-AT&T/APPLE cellphone company employing smartphones based on the Android OS (Google and HTC and the creators of the commercials should be a co-defendants).

Secondly, on the idea that with this merger, T-Mobile and AT&T are brutally and carelessly repressing and suppressing in a wholesale sweeping manner the consumer identities, choices and expressions of millions of T-MObile customers who have made a careful lifestyle decision, and voted with their $$$ to support a certain type of company with a certain type of technology and all that it represents, and implies and stands for, and that includes the fact the T-Mobile is one of the few companies that stood up to the unconstitutional suspension of privacy rights in regards FISA.

Thirdly, by selling out it's customers to AT&T, in this manner, T-mobile (and AT&T) are causing emotional and psychological stress to millions of T-mobile customers whose consumer identities have been used and abused and sold to the highest bidder, and who now have to look forward to a company (AT&T) with a terrible record of quality, who treats it's customers like lemmings (thanks to APPLE seeling out their customers like...lemmings), and has an inferior network and product in many large cities in the country.

Or, they have no choice but to deal with Verizon, a deregulated communication company who for some reason still owns and doesn't allow other companies to use it's landline network (built by the people's funds back in the day), and treats it's customers like ATM-machines creating penalties and money making cons and schemes at will to generate billions in phony profits.


Obviously, I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but honestly, if we're to move forward into this brave new world where corporations are "persons" and consumer identities are at the end of the day, the single most important identifying profile of a life, because it has a currency and relevance in the "free market" (the one true and real sacred and perfect religion of the 21st century bringing us global peace and a coke and a smile...), then I think I'm on to something big here and some big law firm needs to jump on this...and I want to be part of that class action lawsuit against the Judas: T-Mobile and that Satan: AT&T....
posted by Skygazer at 8:28 AM on March 23, 2011


Oh, I remembered the word for what thee First part of the class action suit would be called:

Misrepresentation.

In going into this deal with AT&T, T-mobile misrepresented it's branding, and the implications and philosophy behind that branding and how it actually followed through in it's actions as a company. Meaning there was an integrity there of message and action that was sound.
posted by Skygazer at 8:33 AM on March 23, 2011


Also, in regards to Verizon: As anyone who's dealt with their customer service can attest, it amounts to a deeply cynical, greedy, ingratiating disingenuous form of <>em>performance art.

It's what all monopolyistic tyrannical companies (and despots) do, actually: cf: Health insurance companies, stock brokers, hedge funds, Wall Street, lobbyists, the Wisconsin GOP, plutocrats (the Koch Bros supporting the arts...GMAFB.)

/digression
posted by Skygazer at 8:44 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


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