Telecom Timeout

Mar 21 2011   11:35AM GMT

AT&T prepares to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion, awkward marketing moments ensue

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

It’ll be hard for any vendor or carrier at CTIA Wireless this week to trump the bombshell that AT&T and T-Mobile USA dropped on Sunday — that the No. 1 wireless carrier in the U.S. is acquiring the No. 4 carrier for $39 billion.

It seems that few industry pundits saw this coming, as much of the chatter over the past two weeks has been about a possible merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. But that oft-rumored relationship reportedly stalled over how much Sprint was willing to pay for T-Mobile, which was most likely between $15 and $20 billion, according to Bloomberg News. AT&T has at least doubled that with its bid. Roger Etner over at FierceWireless also raises an interesting point — that this was the merger hiding in plain sight, seeing as AT&T and T-Mobile share more technology genetics than Sprint and T-Mobile.

The deal sets up AT&T to add 46.5 million more subscribers to its existing 247.5 million. The two networks would make coverage available to 95% of the entire U.S. population, according to AT&T. Whew.

What about those digs T-Mobile has been aggressively taking at AT&T in its marketing for HSPA+? Particularly those highlighting its ability to do video conferencing over 4G (well, T-Mobile’s definition of 4G).

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OK, fine. This probably isn’t as serious of an issue as what regulatory hurdles this deal may bump into, what it means for T-Mobile customers and the implications for Sprint’s future. But that first board meeting? Awwwkward.

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