It's beginning to look like the only way for the bigger networks to compete with each other is through acquiring other companies and more assets. AT&T once tried to buy out T-Mobile and merge the two companies together, claiming that it was "the only way" to compete with the massive hold that Verizon has over the market. Regulators were having none of it and we all know what happened there.
Now, it looks like AT&T have signed a deal with ANTI to acquire assets from Alltel, which includes 585,000 paying subscribers, spectrum, retail stores and licenses. It looks like the deal is going to be more about getting hold of spectrum and some more paying customers than anything else. The acquisition of assets will get AT&T spectrum in the 700 Mhz, 850 Mhz and 1900 Mhz bands which should keep the carrier happy for a time.
What's more interesting about this is that ma bell is going to try their hand at buying out assets that the government ordered Verizon to offload in 2008. When the CDMA network bought out Alltel in 2008 the government ordered them to offload subscribers in 105 markets in which they felt Verizon could become too dominant. AT&T secured 79 of them while ANTI managed to scrape away with 26. Now, if the regulators approve this deal, AT&T will be dominant in all of the 105 markets they feared Verizon would be.
AT&T will also gain 585,000 paying customers from the deal but, they're currently using a CDMA network and, as AT&T call it, they'll have to be "upgraded" to GSM – perhaps AT&T are trying to spark another argument over which standard is better Nevertheless, AT&T compatible LTE is said to be making the jump to these markets as well.
It seems that AT&T are looking to get hold of a little more spectrum by acquiring what they can, we're sure they're betting on the regulators not having too much of a problem as they're only buying up a small customer base. With MetroPCS and T-Mobile merging this year – pending review, of course – it looks like the U.S. Wireless Industry is getting smaller and bigger at the same time.
The question is, will any of us benefit from it?