Wireless Consolidation: How Did We Get Here?

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MetroPCS recently met with the Federal Communications Commission about wireless competition, presumably in response to AT&T’s proposal to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. Already, industry groups, average consumers and Sprint have come out against the proposed merger, and MetroPCS also offered up this nice slide showing how the industry has been consolidating for the last decade.

It also shows the huge disparity in market cap between the top two carriers and the remaining ones, namely Sprint and MetroPCS. If we want to be fair, I would have also included Leap Wireless which operates the Cricket brand of prepaid service, and is the most direct competitor to MetroPCS. Leap’s market cap on the day this chart was compiled was $1.29 billion. That’s still a long way off from AT&T’s $180 billion.

Sure, the industry as we know it today was built by consolidation, but as more and more people rely on mobile broadband, the stakes are much higher. Do we really want what is effectively a duopoly in wireless to mirror the duopoly we already have in wireline?

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