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T-Mobile Merging With MetroPCS 86

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the one-carrier-to-take-fourth-place dept.
Daetrin writes "Last year T-Mobile tried to merge with AT&T but the deal was blocked by the FCC. Now T-Mobile and MetroPCS have agreed to merge in a $1.5 billion deal. There doesn't seem to be much concern that the FCC will disagree with this deal, perhaps because the two companies combined will have a user base of 42.5 million, which will still be smaller than the #3 player Sprint's 56.4 million. Because the two companies have similar spectrum holdings T-Mobile claims the merger will allow them to offer better coverage. They also say they will continue to offer a range of both on and off-contract plans."
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T-Mobile Merging With MetroPCS

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @11:30AM (#41538803)

    Will they keep Carly Foulkes?

  • Angegriffen! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by busyqth (2566075)
    The German Juggernaut strikes again!
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @11:37AM (#41538893) Homepage Journal

    Because the two companies have similar spectrum holdings T-Mobile claims the merger will allow them to offer better coverage.

    And therein is the lie. Because the FCC hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, allowed a merger in recent history between a major carrier and a smaller one without imposing the requirement that substantial amounts of overlapping spectrum be disposed of. Both carriers have nationwide AWS, and while MetroPCS's PCS spectrum is more limited, it exists mostly in areas that T-Mobile already has coverage.

    So what does this mean in practice? It means:

    - Less competition - less incentive to reduce prices or improve services
    - Another round of layoffs, probably numbering in the thousands, possibly tens of thousands.
    - More customers on less spectrum, with at least initially multiple network standards making spectrum sharing even harder.
    - More costly spectrum refarming
    - Either maintenance of four largely incompatible networks (2GSM, IS95/2000, UMTS, and LTE) or the migration of all IS95/2000 customers to 2GSM/UMTS/LTE, at considerable cost.
    - Funds spent on the above that could be spent on rolling out 3G to uncovered areas, or rolling out LTE. Or improving their deteriorating customer service.

    Oh, and to add insult to injury, there'll be one less alternative existing T-Mobile customers can jump to in the event T-Mobile gets worse. Which it will.

    Also, from a phone geek's PoV, this is a merger between a company that's always been hostile towards customers having control over their own devices, and one that used to be liberal on the subject but has become more and more controlling lately. And directors of the former will be taking up prominent roles in the new company.

    This is a terrible, terrible, idea, and the people behind it are terrible, terrible, people.

    • by Aryden (1872756) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @11:44AM (#41538991)

      Also, from a phone geek's PoV, this is a merger between a company that's always been hostile towards customers having control over their own devices, and one that used to be liberal on the subject but has become more and more controlling lately. And directors of the former will be taking up prominent roles in the new company.

      Yet I've been with T-mobile for 10 years now (Powertel -> VoiseStream -> T-Mobile) and I have yet to experience this hostility you speak of. Neither have the friends I know on MetroPCS and T-Mobile.

      • MetroPCS has always locked down its phones. T-Mobile has been increasingly locking down its phones and services over the last few years, culminating in the "You can only use this myTouch data plan with myTouch devices and cannot use a non-myTouch data plan with a myTouch phone" stupidity a couple of years ago that, thankfully, they backed out of a little.

        Used to be the case that data was data. You had two plans, T-Mobile Internet, which was the Internet, and the T-Mobile web thing (I forget the name) tha

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by AvitarX (172628)

          They did that for all the smart phones, basically the feature phones that were incapable of using much data had a different plan than the smartphones that could use a lot. Makes sense to me.

          Now they have true unlimited data for $20/month.

          • by Aryden (1872756)
            Yes, they had data plans for certain phones such as the MyTouches and the SideKick. Which, if you will recall, were cheaper plans than standard internet because the devices were limited in what they could do.
            • The myTouch is a standard Android phone. The plan wasn't cheaper, and there wasn't any reason to have a seperate plan.
              • by AvitarX (172628)

                I'm pretty sure it made sense to charge me more for my G1 (which was a different plan in name only than the mytouch) than for my 6800. Any reasonable person can figure out which one is going to use more data, even though both were unlimited.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          T-Mobile has been increasingly locking down its phones and services over the last few years, culminating in the "You can only use this myTouch data plan with myTouch devices and cannot use a non-myTouch data plan with a myTouch phone" stupidity a couple of years ago that, thankfully, they backed out of a little.

          I'm not doubting you, but I had no such experience from T-Mobile. They always unlocked my MyTouch phone 3 weeks after purchase. Waiting 3 weeks allowed me to simply return the phone if I didn't like

          • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @01:43PM (#41540503)

            Same experience here. I've had T-Mobile for over 12 years (from when they were Voicestream). I'm currently on a Galaxy Nexus unlocked and purchased straight from Google on a $50/month unlimited voice/data/text plan.

            • by Obfuscant (592200)
              Similar time with T-Mobile. I haven't had a T-Mobile official phone for five or six years. No problem. And when I got my LG they added the old $10/month data plan without forcing me to leave my grandfathered $24/month plan.

              I don't know what the plans are called, I don't care. I don't see anything being blocked or limited, and I've used the phone as a NAP to link both my Xoom and my laptop into the net.

              T-Mobile has phases. They had a stupid phase a few years ago. As far as I can tell, they're in happy phas

          • by angrytuna (599871)
            I agree with the parent. I'm currently using the TMobile Galaxy S2 in Canada, which I had unlocked 60 days after purchase. Whenever I cross the border north, I drop in a PAYG SIM from Fido. Works great. I'm also able to buy a $1 daypass from Fido for data on the fly, and that works great as well. (the 10M data cap on the day pass makes it for emergencies only, but it's certainly nice to have it for that).
        • by Rich0 (548339)

          True, but the fact that T-Mo now lets you bring your own device at a much lower rate mitigates some of their lockdown issues. I hope that is not a feature that goes away, because it has really worked well for me.

      • This. I've only been with T-Mobile for a little under a year, but that gives an idea of their current thinking--and they have actually *helped* me get both of my devices, neither of which was purchased from T-Mobile and one if which isn't even sold in the US market--onto their US network. The grandparent strikes me as fearmongering for the sake of it.
    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Ditto to most of the dissent.

      TMO is not always the driver when they don't offer boot unlockers. The manufacturers see that custom Android ROMs are a challenge to support (actually, unsupportable by them), so they resist letting us brick our phones with the latest zOMGTHIS ROM IS GREAT from who knows where. Your scorn is more accurately directed at the manufacturers. A lot of regional carriers also don't have the clout to get any perks from the manufacturers. This will help Metro subscribers in the end.

      I'

      • TMO is not as bad as AT&T etc, what bothers me is that they're heading in that direction and have been ever since Android took off. No, I don't blame them for locked bootloaders per-se (although I don't believe they're blameless either, but they are good enough to host a "phone hacking" forum on their own website.) But they have been locking down plans and changing the system over the last few years from the liberal "T-Mobile Internet" and "Change your plan whenever you want with no contract obligation

        • If Metro's PCS voice spectrum is congested, and T-Mobile can show the FCC that they're actively using their own spectrum as well, I seriously doubt there's going to be any great push to force its divestiture unless some small regional carrier is looking *really* needy. I mean, who's the FCC going to make them sell it to? AT&T or Verizon? Please. Sprint doesn't really need more 1900MHz spectrum, doesn't want AWS spectrum, and couldn't afford to buy it anyway.

          Remember, most of the merger-forced spectrum s

      • > My only question is, will Metro go GSM?

        No and yes. They'll "Go Canadian" and do what carriers in Canada did -- keep using circuit-switched CDMA for voice (since it's built out, a sunk cost, and already "there"), and new phones will default to HSPA+ & LTE for data (falling back to EVDO, 1xRTT, EDGE, and GPRS when HSPA+/LTE doesn't exist).

        In ~2 years, they can start scaling back EVDO and reallocate spectrum to LTE and HSPA+. Another year or two past that, and they can eliminate EVDO entirely (keepin

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I do agree with some of your comments, though the one thing I really like is the value plans with bring-your-own-device. I can still buy them from T-Mo, or from wherever I care to (and hopefully with stuff moving to LTE that will involve fewer compromises).

        Not sure I'm excited by the merger though - I don't really see much gain for T-Mo customers.

    • by headbulb (534102) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @12:46PM (#41539829)

      What is your deal? I've seen you post this comment almost word for word on various other sites.

      You've got some good points. But a lot of your argument doesn't seem to be about those points. Your argument seems to mostly have a emotional basis to it. As if you don't like the company/ies involved for whatever reason that you don't seem to be saying.

      T-Mobile just has to maintain the cdma network for a little while. Years perhaps. Customer and hardware turnover will get customers onto hspa/lte compatible hardware. A lot of MetroPCS customers already have lte compatible devices. From the google search I see that it's hardware that's able to handle VoLTE. T-Mobile can make a push to improve the lte coverage and current MetroPCS hardware will be able to work without the cdma network. In the meantime they can continue to roam onto sprints network.

      The maintenance of four different networks isn't really even a big deal. With the tower equipment that T-Mobile is using and deploying is capable of running all four with either a software update or very little hardware changes. I feel that you are also being a bit disingenuous with this argument since 2GSM UMTS/HSPA and LTE are in the 3gsm family and were designed to do handoffs with each other, cdma and lte were not so much.

      As for the FCC requirements you don't actually know that the fcc is going to do that. The last few years it's been the two big dogs that have been making acquisitions. Those are different stories and I wouldn't use them as examples for a company the size of the new T-Mobile. If the new T-Mobile does indeed have to give up some spectrum we won't and don't know how much.

      The technical issues you listed just don't seem to be that big of an issue. This is a business move. This is about combining two companies for the synergies. The real winner here is Deutsche Telekom. Which can sell off stock slowly from the newly formed company.

      You're real reasons really show through when you decided to use that last sentence "This is a terrible, terrible, idea, and the people behind it are terrible, terrible, people." So again I ask. What's your deal?
       

      • What is your deal? I've seen you post this comment almost word for word on various other sites.

        Link?

        I've commented upon this issue only on Slashdot, TmoNews, and Twitter. I have probably made the same points across multiple posts, but it's an outright fabrication to suggest the above comment was posted "almost word for word" anywhere else.

        Your argument seems to mostly have a emotional basis to it. As if you don't like the company/ies involved for whatever reason that you don't seem to be saying.

        Would

      • The maintenance of four different networks isn't really even a big deal. With the tower equipment that T-Mobile is using and deploying is capable of running all four with either a software update or very little hardware changes. I feel that you are also being a bit disingenuous with this argument since 2GSM UMTS/HSPA and LTE are in the 3gsm family and were designed to do handoffs with each other, cdma and lte were not so much.

        How do you know this? Please cite sources on how the "tower equipment T-Mobile is using and deploying is capable of running all four with either a software update or very little hardware changes." I am not doubting your assertion; in fact, I logged on here looking to see someone make exactly this assertion because I assumed that most cellular technology was very similar from the hardware dimension. Can you expand a little and point us to a link on this?

        • by Shatrat (855151)

          Most telecom equipment, including base stations, is modular.
          I don't have much personal experience with wireless base stations but if it's anything like all the transport equipment and routers/switches between the tower and the Mobile Switching Center, adding different protocols may be as simple as slotting a new card and connecting it to a new antenna.

    • And therein is the lie. Because the FCC hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, allowed a merger in recent history between a major carrier and a smaller one without imposing the requirement that substantial amounts of overlapping spectrum be disposed of.

      How does spectrum overlap? AWS is sold in blocks geographically, the companies own specific frequencies in specific locations, there is no overlap.

      • In context, it overlaps if two operators have the same category of spectrum in the same market.

        For example, both MetroPCS and T-Mobile have PCS spectrum in the 33403 zip code. So from the FCC's point of view, some of that spectrum is up for grabs unless T-Mobile can show a compelling case why it should keep all of it, and why it wouldn't be anti-competitive for it do so.

        The biggest problem is with AWS. Both T-Mobile and MetroPCS have licenses for 100% of the USA, so T-Metro will almost certainly be req

        • by lgw (121541)

          Why would that be bad? Or good?

          Mergers are a perfectly normal part of the business cycle: during a downturn ma ny smaller players die. Coming out of the downturn, mergers and aquisitions happen, until your down to 3 or so companies and companies have some pricing power again. As the economy improves you get new players, and the previously survivors tend to get sloppy and lazy and less competitive. Come the next downturn and wave of merges, it's often a very diferent set of 3 or so companies surviving.

    • As you can see from the responses to my comment, there's a lot of people making bizarre claims about my motives in posting it. To make a few things clear:

      1. I've been a T-Mobile customer since 2002. I've recommended them, repeatedly, online and off.

      2. I've been a Slashdot poster for over a decade too. I've had articles accepted. I've joined in many conversations about a variety of topics and been, uh, forthright in my views. More forthright than above, actually.

      3. So it should be f---ing obvious that

      • Re:Beware the shills (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @03:16PM (#41541649)

        > Unless you're a DT or PCS shareholder, there's no reason to support this merger. None whatsoever.

        Unless, of course, you're a MetroPCS customer with late-model Android phone (like the Galaxy S3) whose underlying chipset is perfectly capable of HSPA+ (assuming its soldered-in RUIM can be induced to act enough like a real SIM card to make a GSM network happy... I'm pretty sure they CAN, if push comes to shove...).

        THOSE customers will absolutely be dancing in the streets, because it might mean they might get to start using T-Mobile's 6-14mbps HSPA+ network for data a few months from now, instead of limping along at ~2mbps or less on MetroPCS's EVDO, or roaming at a painful crawl on Sprint's third-world single-digit-kbps EVDO (slower than data anywhere on earth besides maybe rural Haiti). From what I've heard, even Metro's LTE is slower than T-Mobile's HSPA+.

    • by grocer (718489)
      This isn't doing anything to LTE for T-Mobile...they got the bandwidth and the cash to do it when the AT&T merger failed to get past the FCC...there was a huge poison pill in that deal that gave T-Mobile $4 Billion in cash and bandwidth to compete with AT&T...once they roll over their towers to LTE (tentatively set for 2013), GSM, 3G T-Mobile, 3G AT&T (at faster speeds that on the AT&T network itself due to the nature of HSPA+), and LTE will be supported across the entire T-Mobile network.
  • metroPCS is a prepaid carrier as far as i know. the customer base is there for the cheapest phones and the cheapest plans that are barely profitable. i was looking at them for my wife's 80 year old grandmother to get rid of her landline.

    no family plans means these people will leave you for another carrier to save a penny

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      First of all, they're pretty much saying that they're going to keep the range of plans they already have, so if those people signed up for that carrier under the current plans, why would they leave after the merger?

      Second, it looks like both T-Mobile and MetroPCS have family plans, so the "no family plans" part seems to be just plain wrong.
    • by afidel (530433)

      Probably spectrum for LTE, plus prepaid is a growing market so not having a prepaid arm is probably a long-term losing proposition even if it reduces ARPU.

  • what AT&T needed was some lobbyists in Washington to make an under-the-table deal with members of the commerce Dept in order for the AT&T / TMobil deal to be approved. This worked for Comcast and NBC Universal two years ago. Very unethical but that's how things work in Washington. The Meredith Attwell quit the Commerce Dept 6 months after the deal to become a highly-paid lobbyist for NBC Universal...not a coincidence.
    • Re:what AT&T needed (Score:4, Informative)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @12:11PM (#41539325) Homepage

      You're seriously suggesting that AT&T [opensecrets.org], with their $4.5 million in contributions (20th largest) this election cycle and $31 million in lobbying (5th largest) in the last 2 years alone, doesn't know how to lobby effectively?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You're seriously suggesting that AT&T [opensecrets.org], with their $4.5 million in contributions (20th largest) this election cycle and $31 million in lobbying (5th largest) in the last 2 years alone, doesn't know how to lobby effectively?

        Yes. I mean, they lost, right? Clearly, they did not spend enough.

        • by lgw (121541)

          Maybe it's possible that politics isn't enitirely corrupt? I know it's fashionable to play the cynic on slashdot, and politicians and beaurocrats don't seem to make a habit of acting in the best interests of those they server, but still: that doesn't mean they never do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry to those folk on MetroPCS that have a "cool deal" that's just right for them, that may be swallowed up into "like but not quite matching" T-Mobile billing plans. I know this can be annoying.

    That said, AT&T's problem (and reason for wanting to buy T-Mobile) was bandwidth starvation. The GSM carrirers are obligated to keep some spectrum on 2G, have a large base of phones on 3G, and desperately need LTE to meet their future bandwidth needs. So any spectrum they can buy/merge with while meeting

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      Are you sure this will make any difference? They now have to support both CDMA and GSM, they can't just magically combine the two.

      Maybe 10 years from now they can switch one of those off, but for the immediate future this won't mean additional bandwidth for anyone.

  • Being as I drive through two dead spots on my way home from work, and drop calls while sitting on my couch (where their map claims I should get two bars), I'm pretty sure the coverage can't get much worse. I laugh at people who bitch about lack of 3G/4G/29G ... I can't even get a signal for a voice call.
  • Because right now, coverage disparities allow some companies to charge through the roof (Verizon) with impunity. I'm no fan of T-Mobile, but as long as there are such massive differences in coverage, speed, and reliability, Verizon (and AT&T hilariously) will continue to gouge customers.
    • I think that's why we need to root for T-Mobile to succeed - not in reference to this merger, but in general. They're the only significantly-sized company to offer cell plans that undercut the offerings of the Big Two. I know doing so is a business decision on their part, and not being done out of the goodness of their heart, but - there needs to be downward pressure kept on this market because, overall, current prices are absurd.

  • I was a US T-Mobile customer for 3+ years, ending today. Of course the nice operator asked why, and here's what I told her:
    1. Better deal. $40/month unlimited everything with SimpleMobile, compared to ~$75. I bought a new, mid-range Samsung smartphone for dirt cheap, and can use my old-ass T-Mobile G1 as an emergency backup. Ol' Saint Nick will probably help me upgrade again.
    2. Spotty coverage. T-Mobile works fine for me at home, but has presented coverage problems when travelling. (SimpleMobile doesn't
    • BTW, since SimpleMobile is a prepaid service (like Smart Talk, Virgin and some others, none of which I'm trying to promote), the price is the price, unlike with the traditional carriers (including TM), with whom the stated price does not include taxes or any fees that they choose to pass on to the customer. So while T-Mobile has some new pricing options if you bring your own phone I think there are still cheaper viable alternatives.
    • by Daetrin (576516)
      You realize you could have gotten a prepaid plan with T-Mobile with unlimited data and text for just $30 a month, right? Sure, it only comes with 100 minutes of talk, but do you actually talk on the phone that much? (I dunno, maybe you do, i certainly don't though.)

      And given that Simple Mobile is just a T-Mobile MVNO reseller, if you actually think T-Mobile is struggling and merging with MetroPCS isn't going to save them, then switching over to Simple Mobile may not help you much.

      As for #8, you're doing

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