Thursday, May 17, 2012

T-Mobile and Metro PCS. Why Not?

There has recently been rumors that T-Mobile is on a shopping spree and might take over Metro PCS. While there has been quite significant skepticism accompanying this rumor, primarily based on the fact that the two carriers use incompatible network technologies, I think there might be reasons to give this another look.
Granted, Sprint didn’t exactly set a golden precedent for how to integrate carriers and networks when they bought Nextel, but that does not mean it can not be done. In fact, there are several carriers who have migrated from a CDMA network to GSM/WCDMA without the sky falling down. For example in South America and Asia. Of course, most of these carriers did so by creating an overlay on existing frequencies within their own spectrum holdings, not through a merger.

While some commentators brand the Sprint Nextel merger as the worst in telecom history, I tend to be somewhat more forgiving. There was at least one mitigating factor that tends to be overlooked in the general malaise that followed.

The Nextel iDEN network, which was completely obsolete and without any real 4G migration path, did at the time have something that the Sprint CDMA network could not replicate. High quality Push-To-Talk (PTT) functionality. Nextel had a core of very loyal and lucrative customers who relied on this service. This delayed the inevitable NexTel network shut-down for too long after the merger. But at least it is an explanation.

For T-Mobile and Metro PCS, or any other CDMA carrier, this challenge would not exist. The CDMA network does not add any value to T-Mobile and if the network shut-down and customer migration to HSPA/LTE is prompt and orderly, business should go about as usual and the spectrum can be re-farmed.

We should also be realistic when it comes to the choices available to T-Mobile. It is not as if there are plenty of GSM/HSPA carriers out there in the US that they could buy. Most of the available choices will be using CDMA technology.

I say, if the price is right, go for it! It would send a signal that T-Mobile is serious about the US market.

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