You won! Not that the battle was worth fighting. Now that the fight is over and you seem to have gotten your way, was it really a win for the consumer? In spite of your immutable position that the U.S. needs a fourth carrier, there was never any solid evidence that your insistence that a fourth carrier would have any effect on competition.
Many industry analysts who, unlike the DoJ, understand the rather uniqueness of the wireless industry have questioned the wisdom of forcing the creation of a different, fourth, carrier. There was also little evidence that it would affect the pricing structure, going forward.
Had you looked to other nations that have both three and four carriers, you would have realized that there is really no competitive advantage to three versus four. That would have been the case here as well.
Allowing (or enabling) Dish into get into the game is not going to change the end result. As the Rural Wireless Association penned, “Three years is not nearly enough time to launch a facilities-based network. Clearly, [the] DoJ has no idea what it takes to build a competitive nationwide mobile network.”
You just came off as this big, club-wielding government bureaucracy. Apparently, this was a much easier (and more politically visible) mark than going after so many more important targets. However, now, that the Sprint/T-Mo debacle is over you can concentrate on the broad-based inquiry of big Silicon Valley tech firm practices, particularly social media.
There has been a 360-degree circle on the analysis of this venture. All kinds of questions have been raised about the good, bad and ugly of the meld. Most of the commentary dissect the details of the deal, which, in the long run, do not really matter. What matters is if a new carrier will change the wireless game, going forward, and that is questionable. Many of our industry analysts have reservations about how this is going to end up.
In reality, all that this really did was to congeal the user base of the new triad. It centralizes databases and resources. In the end, Verizon and AT&T customers are not likely to abandon these carriers just because Dish is now available. It is naive to assume that Dish will be any more, or less, capable than any of the others once it gets its sea legs.
All that being said, this was more of a political football than a real economic or competitive issue. Had this not happened, there would have been little impact on the industry except that Sprint would likely have gone paws-up and its customers would have moved on to other carriers. Their assets (sites, hardware, IP, etc.) would simply have been put up for sale and been picked up by other carriers. In the end, the infrastructure would have remained pretty much the way it is today, just new names on Sprint’s hardware and coverage map.
Still, even as this is now history, there are monkey wrenches in the machinery. A couple of the FCC’s commissioners, Rosenworcel and Starks, voiced reservations. Rosenworcel noted she remains skeptical that the combination is good for consumers. Starks thought the deal should be put out for public comment before the FCC acts.
As well, 15 states have filed some sort of legal challenge. Most claim it is bad for competition. One AG, Ken Paxton, of Texas made the statement that it was a “fig leaf” that would not help consumers.
Some seem to think it is just a rework of the carrier segment to better congeal the resources and prevent the demise of Sprint. The Rural Wireless Association was also against the merger noting, “Expecting Dish, a start-up mobile carrier in its infancy, to be able to compete as a fourth nationwide network, with divested wireless assets from Sprint and T-Mobile and Boost MVNO customers, and subject only to a handful of requirements that will expire, spells disaster for American consumers.” While this statement may be a bit over dramatic it does raise a valid question.
The one argument that does hold some water is that the merger conditions should make available additional spectrum for 5G. However, there is another argument that such spectrum would have to be utilized, anyway, as 5G evolves. And, no one is really sure of what 5G will look like in a few years.
Then there is the question of Dish, itself. Dish has a history of failed commitments, spectrum hoarding, and creative interpretation of FCC rules and regulations.
The fact is that there are very few examples, worldwide, of countries that have four national, facilities-based wireless competitors who are all healthy and profitable. As well, what will Dish’s business plan be? Do they want to be the next “uncarrier” with creative pricing? Will they follow through on the requirement to advance rural wireless? Will Dish partner with an Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, or some other Silicon Valley mega-corporation to offer unconventional services and products?
While the deal is done as far as the U.S. government is concerned, there are some real issues to be addressed, particularly the outcome of the States’ actions. Plus, there seems to be the familiar partisan politics along party lines – Democrats, nay, Republicans aye.
And, some analysts, as well as this editor, seem to think three good (and the operative word here is good) carriers can do the job – both spectrally and competitively. As well, there is no guarantee that the Dish will be successful. After all, its attempt to build a NB-IoT network failed miserably. Dish is now redirecting those resources at 5G.
Once the dust settles, there are going to be pros and cons. First of all, T-Mo has a solid track record of leading the industry in branded phone customer growth. That is a powerful driver towards a successful venture. However, Dish’s Ergen has been known to be, shall we call it “creative.” Will his ego get in the way here?
This is one of those dramas that will take a while to play out and has more than one possible finale. It will be interesting to see which alternative ending actually comes to pass.