Now that AT&T has agreed to abide by stricter net neutrality rules and expand access to its gigabit-speed fiber-optic network, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has recommended approval of AT&T’s merger with DirecTV. In the meantime, a potential merger between Dish and T-Mobile appears to be less settled as the FCC moves to reject the small business discount Dish Network received in a recent mobile spectrum auction. The FCC may impose a $3.3 Billion penalty which could add to its debt and scuttle the merger. T-Mobile’s merger with Dish is also less settled because Chief executive Timotheus Höttges, from Deutsche Telekom which is T-Mobile’s largest shareholder, has said that he favors Comcast over Dish as a merger partner.
While most enterprises rely on Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless for mobile services, and few enterprises buy bundles of wireless services with cable TV subscriptions, this news is important. First, it signifies the rise in importance of video to carriers. Second, while AT&T will be able to increase its revenue through its acquisition of DirecTV, that uptick will be countered with less funding for spending on network infrastructure or areas that are more central to enterprises’ core areas.
A third consideration for enterprises regarding T-Mobile relates to its pricing and un-carrier strategy. Enterprises have benefited from T-Mobile’s aggressive campaigns because they have led AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless to offer more competitive plans to consumers and the enterprise market. Perhaps the most important factor in these developments would be Dish’s valuable stockpile of spectrum, or wireless licenses. Ultimately, a combination with Dish may be the best outcome for enterprises because it would greatly expand T-Mobile’s ability to offer faster and more reliable service. A larger more reliable network is critical to making T-Mobile a viable third provider for enterprises.
The big question that looms now concerns Sprint and its future since regulators nixed the idea of a combination between Sprint and T-Mobile. Now Sprint will need to find a way to compete more effectively or find a strategic partner to secure its future. While T-Mobile has to sort things out between Dish and Comcast, AT&T has found an acquisition that will enable it to grow its revenues and position it favorably for a world where video is more important.