AT&T Inc. has agreed to buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG for $39 billion in cash and stock, in a deal that would create an industry giant by combining the second-largest and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers, the Wall Street Journal reports.
It isn’t clear whether regulators will allow the transaction, one might argue. It might be so much that the deal would reduce the number of leading national providers from four to three, but that it allows one of the top-two to become so much larger.
Should the deal be approved, however, AT&T would vault to the leading position, becoming 33 percent larger than Verizon Wireless, today the leader in terms of market share. Should the deal be approved, and should no rival bid emerge, Sprint would retain its third-place rank, but without any hope of a rapid way to level the playing field. There has been speculation that Sprint and T-Mobile USA might merge, thereby creating three roughly equivalent-sized players in the U.S. market.
By some estimates, the merged AT&T and T-Mobile USA would have about 43 percent market share in the U.S. wireless market.
If approved, the deal also would affect many industry suppliers, probably favoring AT&T suppliers and taking away business from T-Mobile USA suppliers. The move also gives AT&T more leverage with handset and other suppliers, though.
If the merger is approved, we might well see Verizon Wireless respond in kind. If Verizon then decided to buy Sprint, two carriers might control 91 percent of U.S. wireless market share.
Should AT&T prevail, though, LightSquared and Clearwire also would have lost a key anchor tenant for their 4G networks.