After AT&T announced its impending purchase of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion, theories have been flying back and forth about the plans of the remaining two of the "Big Four" wireless carriers. Sprint, whose underdog mentality has allowed it to use the weaknesses of its bigger brothers to recover from its freefall just a few years ago, is now the only underdog in the mix, and is threatened more than ever by aggressive cost competition and carrier exclusivity deals. Verizon, used to being the top dog in network performance and phone selection (now that they’ve included the iPhone in their veritable lineup), now sees AT&T as a threat instead of a nuisance, as they prepare to grow their cell sites and spectrum to a more acceptable level.
Many thought that Verizon would look to buy Sprint in an effort to stop AT&T from buying a huge leg up in the industry. It would give Sprint a chance to cut its losses before being overrun as the small guy in the ring, and it would give Verizon a whole bunch of fresh subscribers and spectrum.
According to Reuters, this isn’t going to happen. In an interview preceding the annual CTIA wireless convention, Verizon CEO Daniel Mead says that they have no problems with AT&T going through with their controversial acquisition. He said that it would simply be postponing the inevitable. "Anything can go through if you make enough concessions," he said. Passive aggressive jabs aside, Sprint didn’t take the news as coolly. Within 24 hours of the announcement, Sprint had already released an official statement claiming that the deal was an antitrust nightmare, and "would alter dramatically the structure of the communications industry." Sprint had also been talking with T-Mobile about their own deal, which would give T-Mobile a significant portion of Sprint stock, effectively joining the two underdogs in a fight against AT&T and Verizon. With AT&T pulling the rug from under this plan, its understandable that Sprint would feel a little jilted.
Mead also confirmed that Verizon Wireless has no plans to purchase Sprint. He took a similarly dominant tone with this as well. "We're not interested in Sprint. We don't need them." Verizon seems to be taking the high road here, belittling the threat that AT&T brings to table by brushing it off as inevitable. He seems to be confident that the quality of his network will prevail over the soon-to-be huge numbers that AT&T will be pulling in. Sprint, in the meantime, has some serious soul searching to do. If they stagnate now, they will face serious issues with phone manufacturer deals and price competition. While much of this is still up in the air, the one sure thing is that things will be different in a year from now.