AT&T has announced
a deal with Deutsche Telekom to acquire T-Mobile, the country's fourth largest wireless provider. The $39 billion deal gives Deutsche Telekom an 8% stake in AT&T, and a spot on AT&T's Board of Directors. T-Mobile had hoped to leapfrog Sprint to become the nation's third largest carrier. Rumors had also surfaced of a Sprint/T-Mobile merger designed to help loosen the AT&T and Verizon stranglehold on the wireless market. Instead, T-Mobile will be gobbled up by a company whose network they've spent the last year mocking as inadequate
"This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO. "It will improve network quality, and it will bring advanced LTE capabilities to more than 294 million people." Consumer advocates likely won't be as enthusiastic, given the deal eliminates a wireless competitor from the market, while making AT&T even larger.
AT&T says they believe the deal could close in twelve months, barring regulatory approval. While regulators rarely see a merger they don't adore, and DC politicians rarely stand up to AT&T -- this is a deal that should see a significant amount of regulatory scrutiny. AT&T traditionally ranks last or close to it in most customer satisfaction polls
, something that explosive growth and T-Mobile integration headaches isn't going to make any better.