The third, fourth, and fifth largest wireless carriers in the United States have undergone some major changes over the last few weeks. Sprint has announced that it is being acquired by SoftBank, while T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS’ plan to merge the two companies have been met with lawsuits from shareholders.
SoftBank’s acquisition of Sprint cost the company $20.1 billion, giving it a 70% controlling share of the company. The buyout has been approved by Sprint’s shareholders and board of the directors, so it is expected to be completed within six months barring any holdups in regulatory approval. Sprint fans will be pleased to know that the CEO, board of directors, and headquarters will remain as-is. In essence, this deal was essentially made to “give Sprint a much-needed cash infusion.”
The T-Mobile USA/MetroPCS merger from a few weeks ago, on the other hand, hasn’t been received as favorably by shareholders. MetroPCS’s shareholders claim that the payments of $4.09 per share “drastically undervalues” the company and “cheats shareholders.” Worse, they’re saying that MetroPCS’ board of directors is “conflicted and serving its own financial interests.” As a result, a lawsuit has been filed against MetroPCS, its board of directors, T-Mobile USA, and its parent company Deutsche Telekom.
[Pocketables via Sprint | CNET via TmoNews]
LTE technology gets a lot of publicity, but smartphones currently only use the network for data. MetroPCS, however, has become the first carrier to launch a voice over LTE (VoLTE) service, beating out South Korean carrier SK Telecom by less than a day. Many carriers have been testing the technology, but only MetroPCS and SK Telecom have managed to actually bring it to market. VoLTE is currently only available in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but the company plans to increase the size of the network in the near future.
Of course, without VoLTE-equipped devices, the technology is practically useless. LG’s Connect 4G is the first VoLTE-capable device to be available on MetroPCS, with additional devices hitting stores in the coming weeks and months. While SK Telecom finished second, it actually offers a superior VoLTE handset: the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Interestingly, MetroPCS was also the first network to roll out commercially available 4G LTE in the US.
[PR Newswire via The Verge]
According to an article yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is finally ready to offer his suggestion that Verizon’s $3.9 billion spectrum deal be approved. The deal will, however, be coming with some additional expected stipulations. Verizon must offer competitive prices for data roaming to other carriers, and must use it in a timely fashion. In other words, no monopolization of markets, and no hogging the ball.
If you’ve been out of the loop, here is what has been going on. Verizon wants to buy $3.9 billion USD of AWS spectrum from a combination of major cable networks. Verizon claims that this will be used soon in its LTE rollout, and is happy to do a spectrum swap to that end with T-Mobile USA.
Most of the companies not involved with the deal are at best annoyed, but some are downright hostile. MetroPCS claims that Verizon will do nothing but stockpile the spectrum for future use. Sprint has expressed serious concerns that Verizon’s incumbent cross-marketing deals with cable companies will make things unfairly difficult for other providers—particularly in the areas of backhaul and WiFi services.
Verizon currently has a slight lead on AT&T in terms of subscribers, AT&T in turn has a massive lead over Sprint and T-Mobile—the third and fourth spot holders. While it appears the caveats to this deal through the new stipulations will address the concerns of both Metro PCS and Sprint, I’m sure many people will still find the offer a little too sweet in Verizon’s favor.
Should smaller carriers be given preferential treatment in the name of competition? Feel free to speak your thoughts in the comments section below.
[WSJ via Fierce Wireless]
Being practically minuscule in comparison to Verizon or AT&T, MetroPCS has not gotten much press about its LTE rollout, but it is rolling out all the same. Lately MetroPCS has been bragging about its approximate 5% adoption rate, which just happens to be nearly the same as Verizon’s LTE adoption rate. 500,000 LTE subscribers means a lot more to MetroPCS than Verizon, but 5% of a customer base is 5%.
Keith Terreri, VP of Finance and Treasurer at MetroPCS, revealed these details while speaking at the Barclays Capital 2012 High Yield Bond and Syndicated Loan Conference. Keith Terreri went on to state that MetroPCS still hopes to launch more LTE Android phones in the second half of this year—probably more mid-range devices similar to its current three, priced in the $99-$149 range. Also revealed—following the finance theme—is that MetroPCS’ $40/100MB LTE plan is getting relatively little action in favor of the $50/1GB and $60/unlimited plans.
Because of the inherent high expense of a new network, especially an ultra-fast one such as LTE, MetroPCS’ bottom line is feeling some pain. To help alleviate this pain, the company has plans to debut a new, more expensive LTE plan. Since the $60 plan is currently unlimited, I would assume this to mean capping the $60 plan around 2GB—most of this plan’s users consume 2-2.5GB monthly—and adding a $70 or perhaps $75 unlimited. With unlimited being MetroPCS’ bread-and-butter, I do not expect to see unlimited data done away with, just made a little bit more expensive. And I would be ok with a move like that at speeds like this. Viva la unlimited data!
[FierceWireless via phoneArena]