While the focus of the AT&T-T-Mobile deal is primarily on consumers, enterprises may be winners as service improves and data roaming rates fall due to partnerships with Deutsche Telekom.
Deutsche Telekom, parent of T-Mobile, has a bevy of enterprise customers. So does AT&T. Combine the two companies, forge better data roaming rates and enterprises could come out ahead.
Data roaming rates are increasingly becoming a headache for global enterprises. We're conducting a survey on the issue across our global ZDNet properties.
On a conference call making AT&T's case for the T-Mobile purchase, CEO Randall Stephenson said:
There's one thing (Deutsche Telekom CEO René Obermann) and I are actually very enthusiastic about is we both deliver a lot of traffic for our business customers around the globe; he delivers a lot of traffic to the US, we do to Germany and Europe. He has a very nice dense set of last mile assets in Europe; obviously we have a terrific set of assets in the United States. It's a great opportunity, we think, to begin to do some partnering for our respective enterprise business customers. We do something like this with American Movil down in Mexico, our partner there. And it's a very, very effective way to approach that marketplace. Just like with American Movil, we do some very attractive roaming deals with each other for wireless customers to do cross-border type roaming, particularly as you move into the data world this becomes more and more important. You should expect to see us do some partnering in that regard as well with Deutsche Telekom in Germany and they have a great European footprint with their wireless assets. So we view this as a really impressive opportunity, a good opportunity to do some integration of capabilities and take advantage of each other's strong positions in Europe versus the United States.
Sybase's Eric Lai also made the case that AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile may be good for enterprises. Lai said:
Enterprises are less cost-sensitive than consumers. Quality-of-service is more important, especially for the muckety-mucks and revenue-generating salesfolks who typically travel the most and whose time is super valuable.
The cell tower sites and additional spectrum that AT&T gains by acquiring T-Mobile will give AT&T the opportunity to boost call reliability (fewer dropped calls) and data speeds (more consistent 3G, and, eventually, 4G) and increase its total coverage area. It was in the first and third areas that AT&T had long been losing to Verizon.
Toss in the fact that AT&T and T-Mobile will rationalize their handsets and enterprises are likely to get fewer handsets to manage. AT&T Wireless chief Ralph De La Vega was a bit cagey on the combined network's handset figures on a conference call. The company did say that it will have a "best in class portfolio of devices" from Apple, Android handset makers, Microsoft and Research in Motion.
However, part of AT&T's $3 billion synergy target depends on device purchasing leverage. In other words, enterprises will have fewer AT&T-T-Mobile devices to manage.