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. icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re: Noose vs Axe

    "Markets do not keep themselves honest, the idea is for the consumers to keep in honest by refusing to do business with bad elements."

    Strangely, I and Techdirt agree with you that competition is the better solution. Hence this article noting problems with a merger that would eliminate wireless competition. Could you perhaps detail some regulations in the wireless space that would move a competitor into the space and clarify what they could do long term, that would inspire customers to move to them? And of course point to the regulations, aside from net neutrality which was no impediment to investment, that Techdirt has championed that are preventing investment in the wireless market.

    You have claimed that regulations are the problem, so tell me the solution.

    Small note: You know, we used to have a bunch of competition in the internet space, both DSL and Dial Up and then title II regulations and the associated protection of the separation between the service and infrastructure layers went away, and now the broadband market is lacking competition, only providing one cable, and one DSL at best in most areas. I don't have a choice, i need cable for work, DSL doesn't have enough bandwidth. Moreover, this situation was the case before I ever could choose broadband. But yeah, all we need to do is stop using the internet, and internet competition will just appear!

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