Posted by: Olga Kharif on November 20, 2009
T-Mobile USA’s parent Deutsche Telekom is looking for U.S. partners to help fund the U.S. wireless carrier’s network build-out, according to a report from Reuters and a German newspaper. Potential partners may include Clearwire, MetroPCS or Leap, according to the report.
Neither of these partners may have the funds for such a deal, however. Clearwire has just raised more than $1.5 billion in funding; but that’s less than half of what it needs for its own network build-out through 2013, according to analysts. MetroPCS and Leap are still small companies, struggling to keep growing amidst rising competition. MetroPCS’s subscriber additions in the third quarter were less than a third of what they were a year ago.
Yes, it is possible that all these struggling, smaller competitors will decide to band together and to fund one network, to be used by all — say, Clearwire’s. Most of them address a different market segment, so they won’t compete with each other too much: T-Mobile goes after the hip, young crowd (though it’s also pursuing prepaid customers). Clearwire offers mobile broadband services for laptops. MetroPCS and Leap have made their names on prepaid wireless plans.
But I would argue that what T-Mobile USA needs is to be paired up with a cash-rich, well-to-do giant, instead. After all, you put a bunch of struggling companies together, and you often end up with a large struggling company.
It seems to me that DT should, instead, look in a different direction — to AT&T, for example. AT&T is healthy and has the funds to help T-Mobile out. It also currently uses the same type of networking equipment as T-Mobile, and could help T-Mobile migrate to next-generation technology more smoothly. While such an alliance could, potentially, raise the anti-trust flag, a deal could, perhaps, be structured in such a way as to overcome such concerns.