Monday, March 21, 2011


as a customer of both AT&T and t-mobile (my iphone is AT&T, my wife's phone is t-mobile), i think this deal is really bad. AT&T and t-mobile are the only two national cell phone carriers in the use who use a GSM network, the cell phone standard for most of the world. (verizon and sprint use CMDA, a network standard that doesn't exist in all but a handful of countries although it is dominant here). i like to travel, so i purposely got a t-mobile phone when i got my first cell phone, the phone line that mrs. noz inherited when i got my AT&T iphone.

you can't swap SIM cards on a verizon or sprint phone. which means that if you travel outside the U.S. with a phone from those companies, either your phone won't work or you have to pay some outrageous roaming charge to your cell phone carrier. on GSM phones you can remove your american SIM card and replace it with a SIM card bought in-country. then you're just like the locals, paying the same rates as them. in almost every other country, the system is based on prepaid minutes not monthly contracts. that means that for an occasional caller like me, cell phone service is a lot cheaper in most, if not all, other parts of the world. when i was in kazakhstan, we paid beeline for our calls, not t-mobile, even though we used mrs. noz's phone that was purchased at a t-mobile store in the u.s. that trick only works for t-mobile and AT&T, at least among major u.s. cell phone carriers.

from that perspective, an AT&T/t-mobile merger would create a monopoly. the resulting company would own the only national GSM network. the people like me who want a GSM phone would have no choice. that might not matter for most of the people in the u.s. i think that's worse than whatever service coverage benefits i might enjoy from the new combined network.