News Analysis: T-Mobile customers have expressed anxiety and outrage that AT&T plans to acquire their wireless carrier for $39 billion. However, they will have few palatable alternatives if regulators approve the AT&T-T-Mobile merger.
T-Mobile customers do not appear to be happy about the company’s proposed sale to AT&T. In statements to me here at eWEEK, and elsewhere on the Internet, the last company that these people want to see handling their wireless service is the struggling and much-maligned AT&T.
Many of those people suggest that their only refuge in the coming storm is Verizon Wireless, which seems to offer an island of peace and stability as well as a network with broad reach and excellent coverage.
In fact, many of the T-Mobile customers I’ve been hearing from point out, some stridently, that they went to T-Mobile specifically to get away from AT&T. The reasons they mention are many, but the primary reasons are poor signal coverage and quality along with really lousy customer service. In a recent article in Consumers Reports, AT&T was rated dead last in the U.S. for customer service, while T-Mobile finished much better.
Unfortunately for many of these outraged T-Mobile customers, there isn’t a choice. It may be that they have a two-year contract that will need to be fulfilled and that means that it’ll be fulfilled with AT&T if this merger goes through. Others need a GSM phone because of their travel or in a few cases (me included) the only carrier that serves their area is T-Mobile.
In a way, I’m lucky. I don’t have a contract with any carrier and all of my T-Mobile phones are unlocked. If I travel to Europe I can take one of my unlocked GSM phones with me and just get a SIM card when I get to my final destination. While I’m in the United States, I don’t need to use AT&T. Of course, in one sense, I’m not lucky. If I don’t use T-Mobile or eventually AT&T, then I don’t get wireless service. While most smartphones also work with WiFi, only T-Mobile supports WiFi calling.
So short of convincing Verizon Wireless or Sprint to build a cell tower somewhere in this part of the Washington D.C., suburbs, I’ll be stuck with AT&T once the merger goes through. That’s assuming that they don’t decide to take out the cell site that serves my area. And, remember, I’m one of the lucky ones since I have options. Many T-Mobile customers do not. In a year or so, they’re going to be forcibly moved from the company with the best customer service and reliable signals, to the company that has the worst of both. It’s no surprise they’re enraged.