Sprint, T-Mobile Try To Sell The Public On A Job-Killing, Competition Eroding Megamerger

from the more-of-this-shit dept

Sprint and T-Mobile are once again talking megamerger. The two companies tried to merge in 2014, but had their romantic entanglements blocked by regulators who (quite correctly) worried that the elimination of one of just four major players in the space would eliminate jobs, reduce competition and drive up costs for consumers. Emboldened by the Trump FCC's rubber stamping of industry desires, the two companies again spent much of last year talking about a potential tie up, though those efforts were ultimately scuttled after the two sides couldn't agree on who'd get to run the combined entity.

But the two companies appear to have settled their disagreements, and over the weekend announced they'd be attempting to merge once again as part of a $26 billion deal. Executives for both companies spent most of the weekend trying to convince the public that dramatically reducing competitors in the sector would magically somehow create more competition:

Of course that's not how competition works. While T-Mobile has had a net positive impact on the wireless sector on things like hidden fees and absurd international roaming costs, the four major carriers had already been backing away from promotions so far this year as they try to avoid something the telecom sector loathes: genuine price competition. As our friends in Canada can attest, reducing the overall number of major competitors from four to three only reduces the incentive for real price competition even further. It's simply not debatable.

And while the two companies are trying to claim that Sprint couldn't have survived on its own, that's not really true. The company's debt load is notable, but with Japanese owner Softbank the company had slowly but surely been getting a handle on its finances. And if a deal was inevitable for survival, there's plenty of potential merger partners (from Dish Networks to a major cable company like Charter Spectrum) that could have been pursued without eliminating a major competitor.

The two companies are also amusingly trying to claim that the deal will somehow create jobs:

And while that's adorable salesmanship, it's indisputably false. History has proven time, and time, and time again that such consolidation in telecom erodes competition, jobs, and quality service. Mindless M&A mania is a primary reason why you all loathe Comcast, since growth for growth's sake consistently means service quality takes a back seat.

Wall Street analysts had previously predicted that a tie up between the two companies could result in the elimination of anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 jobs (the latter being more than Sprint even currently employs) as redundant retail locations, middle managers, and engineers are inevitably dismissed. And while both companies are spouting the usual lines about how "nothing will really change," anybody that has lived through a deal like this one (or, say, just paid attention to history) should realize the folly of such claims.

Whether the deal will be approved by the Trump administration is uncertain. While the Ajit Pai run FCC has made it abundantly clear it's willing to rubber stamp every fleeting sector desire regardless of its impact (net neutrality, privacy), the Trump DOJ has become a bit of a wildcard in the wake of its lawsuit to thwart the AT&T Time Warner merger. Some analysts see the deal as having only a 40% chance of approval, though Sprint and T-Mobile are trying their best to pander to the Trump admin by claiming that the miracles of next-gen wireless (5G) can only arrive if they're allowed to merge.

But there's a reason both companies announced the deal on a Sunday when everybody was napping or tending to the lawn. There's also a reason they're trying to rush this deal through now before adult regulatory supervision inevitably returns at the FCC. And that's again because this deal, like so many telecom sector megadeals before it, will only benefit investors and shareholders, not the public or the internet at large. Since companies can't admit that these deals are largely harmful to anybody but themselves, we get obnoxious sales pitches that aggressively ignore common sense -- and history.

Filed Under: antitrust, competition, consolidation, doj, fcc, jobs, john legere, marcelo claure, mobile
Companies: sprint, t-mobile


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  1. identicon
    SirWired, 1 May 2018 @ 8:18am

    LOL, re: the TechDirt acquisition plan

    "And if a deal was inevitable for survival, there's plenty of potential merger partners (from Dish Networks to a major cable company like Charter Spectrum) that could have been pursued without eliminating a major competitor."

    Why would a TV broadcaster or cable company want to buy a cell phone network? How would THAT solve Sprint's problems with it being an uncompetitive network with a shrinking customer base, heavy debt, and no money to fund upgrades?

    Yeah, one of those other companies could bundle phone service with their other services as a promotion, but they could do that today if they chose without actually buying a cell carrier. (Heck, they could even set up their MVNO for minimal cost.) It might make some sense if Sprint were a healthy business not in need of a major capital infusion (driving up the cost of the acquisition by a lot), but they aren't.

    Lastly, I find it hilarious that the "up to 30,000" job cut number is being accepted uncritically, since it makes no sense. (The number was likely developed by somebody that punched some numbers into a hacked-together spreadsheet and didn't actually check Sprint's current employee base to figure out if the estimate passed a sanity check.) TechDirt would never let a telco get away with ludicrous figures like that, but apparently they are perfectly acceptable if they support the narrative TD is sticking to.

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