T-Mobile, instead of moving straight to LTE, had been pushing HPSA+, most recently to 42 Mbps in select markets--not quite 4G speeds, but well past 3G. "Each time T-Mobile has set the bar [on HPSA speeds], AT&T has had to match it," Ayvazian says. This deal would let AT&T focus on its LTE investment rather than have to match T-Mobile in HSPA+.
The problem is worse for T-Mobile, whose spectrum holdings would make a true 4G rollout using a technology like LTE very difficult without making obsolete existing users' devices. In many ways, the management of T-Mobile has orchestrated a perfect George Costanza moment for itself.
By rolling out enhancements to its HSPA technology, T-Mobile has been an early provider of 4G-like performance, but it has no clear path to wider coverage or higher speeds. As such, it's now taking a bow and selling to AT&T at the top of its game. (T-Mobile reportedly also was in merger talks with Sprint.)
Our data reveals that IT pros think the biggest benefit of the merger would be in better 3G and 4G service from AT&T (see chart, left). But at the same time, that's about their only positive expectation.
Survey respondents don't think business customers will get any more plans to choose from, nor are they confident customer service will improve. And they're convinced costs won't go down.
So will T-Mobile customers flee? No doubt AT&T thinks the long-term ramifications of the merger won't be as severe as our knee-jerk survey reactions indicate.
AT&T's research likely showed the same thing ours does: T-Mobile customers, particularly business customers, chose the carrier in the face of the accepted wisdom that only Verizon and AT&T are suitable business-class partners. The bottom line is that customers that made that choice either really like some aspect of T-Mobile service--such as more predictable data and voice performance in certain markets--or they really hate AT&T.
Become an InformationWeek Analytics subscriber and get our full report on the impact of the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger.
This report includes 20 pages of action-oriented analysis packed with 15 charts. What you'll find:
- Respondents' take on likely impact of merger on coverage, costs, and service plan options.
- Outlook on HSPA+ vs. LTE. Those in the know see a dim future for one 4G technology.