Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile USA, yesterday squashed speculation that the German carrier would buy Sprint, saying the U.S. market has consolidated enough. Such a comment, made by CFO Timotheus Hoettges, raises questions as to just how competitive the U.S. mobile market is, especially as consumer groups argue we’ve reached a point at which the four big carriers move in lockstep when it comes to raising prices, offering services and delivering new technology.
To be sure, Hoettges didn’t say outright that the U.S. market was a stagnant oligopoly, but his comparison to the European cell market sure made it sound that way. His assessment and comparison may come as a blow to folks on this side of the pond who argue that not only is the country’s cellular market competitive, it’s even robust enough to compete with wireline voice and data.
Bloomberg quoted Hoettges as saying:
“There are four national players in the U.S. market for 300 million households, while in Europe, where we have 350 million households, there are 50-70 operators,” Hoettges said, after a conference in Frankfurt today. “We believe in our chances of being the challenger.”
Warming to the challenger position, T-Mobile is attempting to buy UK carrier Orange in a deal that’s facing regulatory scrutiny abroad. It would leave the UK — a much smaller country than the U.S. — with four primary wireless carriers. Sounds familiar.