AT&T Plus T-Mobile Is Subtraction Not Addition

Without T-Mobile in the mix I expect prices will rise and cellular contracts will become more restrictive. Great.

Confession first: This will be a mostly emotional blog post. After it’s up on the web opposing views in the comments are encouraged. I’ve just looked at the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile combo platter. I am not pleased!

T-Mobile is ‘small’ by cellular carrier standards. However, it plays a huge roll in the American cellular universe. T-Mobile is the low cost nationwide carrier and others respect its pricing in much the same way the legacy airlines respect Southwest and JetBlue.

Without T-Mobile in the mix I expect prices will rise and cellular contracts will become more restrictive. Great.

T-Mobile allows cellular customers to freely tether their computers to cellphones for data. AT&T does not. What incentive is there for AT&T to adopt this T-mobile policy? None!

AT&T is getting the best of all worlds. While reducing downward pricing pressure they’re also swallowing this country’s only other nationwide GSM carrier. Nearly everything they acquire will be compatible with what they already have. That allows them to expand their infrastructure very quickly and at a reasonable price.

What do you think? Will AT&T’s prices fall to what T-Mobile’s were or will T-Mobile customers see their bills rise? I’m betting on the latter!

This is a federally regulated business and the purchase will be subject to government approval on a number of levels, but I suspect nothing can/will stop it. Comcast/NBC went through, didn’t it?

And then there’s the question of what will happen to Carly Foulkes? I’ll miss her.

14 thoughts on “AT&T Plus T-Mobile Is Subtraction Not Addition”

  1. Geoff –

    T-Mobile is small here in the U.S. – in Europe they’re a major player.

    Besides, if you really want the planets to align and enter cell phone utopia as I did when I dumped SNET Wireless after 13 years and went to Bell Atlantic around 11 or 12 years ago, sign up with Verizon.

    I’ve been so pleased I sent them a letter, an excerpt of which has been on their website for a couple of years now:

    1. ACR – Have you thought your email has been there for years because no one else has sent a nice note?

      Seriously though, Verizon has been somewhat ‘evil’ in removing functionality in their phones to deprive customers of services they could have for free, but which aren’t in Verizon’s best interests. Then there’s the whole thing about Verizon collecting on mistakenly used data time… mistakes made easier by Verizon’s placement of menus and options.

      From David Pogue in the NY Times:

      “Here’s how it works. They configure the phones to have multiple easily hit keystrokes to launch ‘Get it now’ or ‘Mobile Web’—usually a single key like an arrow key. Often we have no idea what key we hit, but up pops one of these screens. The instant you call the function, they charge you the data fee. We cancel these unintended requests as fast as we can hit the End key, but it doesn’t matter; they’ve told me that ANY data–even one kilobyte–is billed as 1MB. The damage is done.

      “Imagine: if my one account has 1 to 3 bogus $1.99 charges per month for data that I don’t download, how much are they making from their 87 million other customers? Not a bad scheme. All by simply writing your billing algorithm to bill a full MB when even a few bits have moved.”

      As it turns out, my correspondent is quite correct. My last couple of Verizon phones did indeed have non-reprogrammable, dedicated keys for those ridiculously overpriced “Get it now”-type services that I would never use in a million years.

      A few years ago I had some choice quotes from Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. In case you missed them:

      “Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?” he said. “The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator; they want it to work in the basement.”

      Seidenberg said it’s not Verizon’s responsibility to correct the misconception by giving out statistics on how often Verizon’s service works inside homes or by distributing more detailed coverage maps, showing all the possible dead zones. He pointed out that there are five major wireless networks, none of which works perfectly everywhere.

      Removing T-Mobile from the mix only makes this stuff more likely to be perpetrated with impunity!

  2. I’ll tell you this…I’m glad we upgraded our phones and locked into another 2 years of T-Mobile before the AT&T purchase. When our contract is up we may very well not continue our family plan.

  3. No one was pleased when Apple paired their iPhone with AT&T. Many people complained about the poor service. Everyone wished that Apple would cut a deal with Verizon. That deal happened when the iPad was released and soon after that, the iPhone 4 was released with a choice of AT&T or Verizon. Many people opted for Verizon service.

  4. Sure, your Verizon will always work in your house – provided you buy their “range extender” for $200 ($300 with a $100 REBATE!!). Our phones worked fine everywhere EXCEPT our house, which we found out AFTER we signed the contract (which is not as easy to back out of as they make it seem). Hence the extender. It works, but there is about a .5 sec. delay in conversations, which is very annoying.

  5. Actually Ivan Seidenberg sent me a nice email himself, and friends I suspect of mine that I bet you know are friends of his.
    Ivan began as a “lineman’s assistant” and worked his way to the top with a detour to Viet Nam where he earned a Purple Heart.

    Here’s what I know – I’m on the unlimited plan so the other stuff never effects me.

    Bell Atlantic / Verizon has yet to cost me even 50% of what I paid SNET for my 1st year with a “car phone” (we didn’t call them `cell phones’ until later).
    Verizon waived a $1400 bill I ran up in the UK in 2009 with no action on my part what-so-ever.

    Prior to the unlimited everything plan, Verizon called me no less than 5 times over the years to tell me I was on the wrong plan and changed it retroactively resulting in sometimes massive credits being applied to my account.

  6. I remember my father ranting and raving about the phone bill when it went up to $7.00 a month. gee! what has happened? I can’t imagine paying $200 a month for a phone. Just imagine the important calls we make on those cells phones. “Hi, what’s new? oh nutin much how about you? Oh not much…how about you?”
    I only keep it cuz it’s better than using a corner phone booth…did I say phone booth? I can’t remember seeing one recently.

  7. Sorry Geoff, I’m another very happy Verizon customer and have been for over 10 years. I’ve have accidentally hit Mobile Web and IF it showed up on my bill they never gave me a hassle about removing it. The phone I have now has a “page” for my shortcuts so there’s no way I CAN hit mobile web by accident. There customer service has been awesome and they have also steered me towards cheaper plans. Do I pay over $200 a month for my bill, yes, but I also have my husband and three kids on my plan so broken down, it averages $50/month for each of us. This includes unlimited texting to ANYONE regardless of the plan the ones we’re texting or receiving from belong to and each of my kids has a data plan. I’ve compared prices to AT&T and Sprint in the past and have to say that Verizon has always been the cheaper route. I’ve also had service in many areas that are “dead” for other companies. We’ll be dropping our landline as soon as our contract with Charter expires because none of us use it anymore. Most of our friends and family have Verizon so we never go over our allotted minutes.

    One thing I will add, if you have Verizon, ALWAYS go to an official Verizon store and not somewhere like the Wireless Zone or any of the other authorized dealers. I have been screwed by one of them. If there’s a problem with your phone, they can’t help you like an official store can and they won’t steer you towards the best plan (pricewise) like the official stores have done for me.

    And just for the record, I have no family or friends who work for Verizon nor do I have any financial stake in the company. I’m just really a satisfied customer.

  8. If I had still gotten good service from Sprint after I moved to my current location,I would still be with them. I see all kinds of people complaining about Sprint’s poor customer service, poor phone service…I called them MANY times over the 6 years I was with them and had only ONE bad CS experience. I didn’t get any service inside my house. They sent me an Airave (extender)and that didn’t work. I need cell service here at home, so I dropped them and went to at&t. I get great service w/at&t at home, but miss Sprint. We’ll see what happens when my contract is done in 2012.

  9. I wish the federal Dept of Justice was really committed to acting in the public interest to limit these mergers – every time one happens, rates go up and service gets worse.

  10. Im disappointed as well.

    It seemed like I was the very last in my generation (I guess Gen-Y) born in the late 80s to get a cell phone. I was a freshman in college in 2005 and decided it was time. While most of peers’ parents bought theirs and had them on a family plan – my single mom didnt have one. So I looked around and T-mobile seemed to have the lowest option for me at $29 for 300 minutes which was plenty since I had 0 before then.

    My first phone was a Razr which was big when I got it in 05. In 07 I decided to get an iPhone and although I could have left my contract to go to AT&T I decided to stay with T-Mobile because they were cheap and had never given me a problem. Their signal in the state of CT was fine in the corridors and pockets I frequented. So I stayed.

    T-Mobile had a $4.99 T-zones plan which was only WAP internet service. But some clever people posted on online forums that one could use a proxy in network settings and unleash full HTTP internet.

    So I bought an iPhone from eBay for $600 and unlocked it using a chip layed over the sim-card called a TurboSim. When I called T-Mobile I pretended like I was adding the T-zones internet for my Razr. But the person on the phone knew by looking at some information from the towers on his computer that I was using an Apple iPhone. Instead of confronting me about it he offered assistance in helping setup the network configurations!

    Theres no doubt AT&T + Verizon will price-fix plans. They already do by making the cheapest family plan $60 and choosing to both introduce tiered data. Sprint will fold into Verizon.

    Hopefully some startup will get in the game and offer VOIP cell service through 4G networks…

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