Diggin' technology every day

April 7, 2011

AT&T+T-Mobile – Spectrum

Filed under: Random Thought — Tags: — Nate @ 5:45 am

One of the bigger things announced recently was that AT&T and T-Mobile are going to try to merge.

I’m watching an interview on CNBC with some bigwig from some company called Evercore Partners, whom is apparently an advisor in this merger.

Anyways one of the main arguments the guy tried to make (along with AT&T) is spectrum. That there isn’t enough spectrum for all of the wireless data that is out there and this merger will some how make more spectrum magically appear.

First off I have for a long time said that the edge data technology (wired or wireless) just doesn’t scale, period (and when I say scale I mean cost effectively scale you can make it go faster in many cases but then it becomes too expensive for almost everyone out there limiting the market opportunities, of course there are those out there that expect and demand gigabit speeds to their home for $20/mo).

This guy seems to forget that there are tens of millions of people using this spectrum already, giving it, and the customers to AT&T really isn’t going to have much of an impact from a spectrum standpoint. They may be able to drive higher capacity utilization so maybe they get an extra 10-20-25% out of it by segmenting their network better in some way, but the bandwidth available to that spectrum is going to be eaten up so fast customers won’t even notice it was there to begin with.

Both AT&T and T-Mobile have very large footprints in the Seattle area, and with all of the job cuts expected during the merger I suspect it will have a harmful impact on the local economy here.

The only good thing about this merger is at least AT&T picked a compatible technology to merge with (that is GSM to GSM), unlike the Sprint Nextel merger which was of course about as polar opposite technologies as you can get.

I like many believe the merger will hurt competition, specifically because T-Mobile has a someone unique position in the market from a pricing standpoint, and being a national carrier they have a lot of coverage. AT&T tries to bring up all these small regional companies as evidence of competition, but in the grand scheme of things they are just the scraps on the plate. I can’t help but assume the merger will result in T-mobile plans turning into AT&T plans at some point.

What we need is something like sub space communications from Star Trek, where data rates are a billion times faster than they are today that will give us enough buffer to grow in to.

My solution to the bandwidth crunch on mobile? Broadcast TV. Want streaming video on your phone? Stream it from the local TV stations in your area via digital antenna (e.g. don’t use the phone network, don’t use wifi). I’m not aware of phones that have this ability at this point though. Don’t have the content your looking for?  Oh well.


  1. Nate, Japanese phones do this TV streaming already, and in the UK Virgin Mobile had a phone with integrated DVB-T. The problem seems to be antennae size vs signal levels, which makes compressed (and therefore chargable) content over 3G+ the winner for operators.

    Comment by Andre Beukes — April 7, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  2. cool! thanks for the info

    Comment by Nate — April 7, 2011 @ 7:24 am

  3. As a current T-Mobile customer, I say the proposed acquisition sucks for everyone except AT&T. And if (when) Verizon buys Sprint, we’ll be back to a nice cozy duopoly, merrily competing to overcharge everyone for crappy service. If it does go through, I hope >50% of T-Mo customers leave; I guarantee I will (especially since I’m not on contract).

    I couldn’t care less about streaming TV or DVB-T.

    Comment by Tony — April 7, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  4. thanks for the post! Yeah I’m not too interested in streaming video either for the most part. I remember buying a Sanyo MM5600 I think it was back in 2004 time frame, it was when Sprint launched their mobile video service, streaming live TV. Though it wasn’t really. The quality was bad and entertainment value limited beyond the first five minutes of use.

    I do remember being in one situation where I wanted streaming TV, I was having my tires rotated or something and was in a long line, waiting for a couple hours and it happened to be Monday night, and I do have some interest in watching Monday Night Football, so was expecting/hoping to be able to stream that over my phone, Sprint had a tight relationship with the NFL at that point and had all sorts of exclusives and stuff. Much to my dismay however I was not able to watch the game on the phone. It looked like I was going to be able to, and did get a live stream, but it rarely showed shots of the game itself, instead showing a couple commentators behind a desk talking about it. Fortunately I Tivo’d it so watched it when I got home.

    But that is one time in the past seven years 🙂

    I had not considered the angle of the carriers wanting to try to find a way to charge for streaming over the airwaves, while I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I can’t help but be surprised that they would be that greedy. After all, their network isn’t even being used in that situation.

    I suppose one option they could do is implement a mini DVR into the phones and charge for that functionality ala Tivo. Allow you to pause, rewind, or even schedule recordings (would need guide data too of course). Or at least be able to set alarms when your favorite show is about to come on or something. I don’t think I’d use it though..

    Comment by Nate — April 8, 2011 @ 7:41 am

  5. Nate, a bit off topic, but what do you thinks about opinions like these:
    No more private datacenters

    Comment by Tony — April 8, 2011 @ 8:38 am

  6. Hey Tony –

    There’s a pretty big difference between not operating your own private data center and using a public cloud of sorts. The big grey area in the middle of course is co-location. The vision that these enterprises have will be met with the harsh reality of what the cloud is, what it can do, and how much it really costs. I’m seeing it in the “real world” all over the place.

    Building state of the art data centers is tough work. It used to be just put a bunch of cooling and power on some raised floor and put some racks out there. Far from it today of course.

    I am working on a 10-12,000 word blog post(by far my biggest ever) around Amazon web services which I intend to release in the coming weeks which will shed more light on this topic.

    Comment by Nate — April 8, 2011 @ 9:04 am

  7. Thanks Nate — looking forward to your post. My job is actually automation programming (of the robotic sort), so while my cynical “hype-o-meter” is going off when reading articles like that one, I don’t know enough about data centers to judge.

    Oh, well, at least the “Web 2.0” hype has died down a bit.

    Comment by Tony — April 8, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  8. […] I didn’t like the deal to begin with of course, so hopefully it’s dead, and T-mobile will get a few billion in break up fees as a result. […]

    Pingback by DOJ files to block AT&T T-mobile deal « — August 31, 2011 @ 7:49 am

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