AT&T Buying T-Mobile USA for $39B. Will GSM Monopoly Speed Up Smartphone Platform Consolidation?

There was a rumor earlier this month that Sprint and T-Mobile were discussing a merger. I pointed out that this would involve trying to get a large number of different communication protocols under the same umbrella and didn’t make much sense. Sprint, for example, still has seperate lines of CDMA and iDEN phones even though their purchase of Nextel was completed way back in 2005.

Sprint & T-Mobile USA Merger Would Involve Dealing with CDMA, iDEN, GSM, EVDO, WiMAX, UMTS & HSPA+

The news of AT&T buying T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG makes more sense since both AT&T and T-Mobile have GSM voice networks. Note that they use different frequencies (850/1900 by AT&T and 1700/2100 by T-Mobile). GSM phones sold in the US generally provides overlapping support of these frequencies for roaming, however. The two companies different 3G networks will present more of a problem for current customers. This is why jailbroken/unlocked iPhones sold by AT&T only provide support for the slower EDGE network when used with a T-Mobile SIM.

AT&T to buy T-Mobile USA for about $39 billion (Reuters)

AT&T Buying T-Mobile USA in $39 Billion Deal (Business Insider)

The good news for consumers is that there will be just one nationwide GSM carrier in the U.S. now. It means that you don’t have to choose between carriers to get a specific GSM phone.

The bad news for consumers is that there will be just one nationwide GSM carrier in the U.S. now. It means that there is no competition in that space. We will probably see fewer smartphone and tablet models appear after the merger is complete.

The merger will probably hasten the consolidation in the smartphone platform space. Focusing on fewer and specific platforms will be one way to reduce marketing, pre-sale, and post-sale support costs. Android and iOS (iPhone/iPad) will definitely be among the survivors. RIM’s BlackBerry is the likely third survivor. Symbian has essentially dropped out of the race. HP’s webOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone will be in a battle for platform survival going into the mid-2010s. RIM’s weakening BlackBerry position may give the Microsoft/Nokia alliance a chance to battle for the #3 spot.