With only a handful of wireless telecoms in the U.S., the cannibalistic notion of AT&T absorbing T-Mobile is a troubling idea on many levels, and all of them end badly for both the consumer and the industry. If there is one thing that the wireless industry needs it's more competition, not less. Whether it's carriers or handset manufacturers, more is better.
When you have multiple players in a vibrant marketplace such as wireless, innovation is much more likely to occur. Companies are forced to develop new ideas in order to satisfy customers and win market share, to please stockholders and appropriate a larger portion of the proverbial pie, to fight hard for well-earned branding while fending off an army of competitors. All of this improves product and delivery.
Conversely, when you limit the number of players the result is reduced innovation, fewer risks, and less allocated to research and development. It's academic and it has been played out many times before.
Consider what the industry would be like right now where there no Apple. How many more years would it be before touchscreen technology would have emerged as an exciting and workable idea? Palm has had touchscreen technology for 20 freaken years and the best they could come up with is a crayon drawing of a horse. Come on, folks!
I am old enough to remember the last time AT&T had a monopoly, and looking back at those dark days is like peering into a bad but accurate Sci-Fi movie where the monolithic corporation provided the single source of communication. While the masses were grateful, thankful and amazed at their modern mode of communication, smart people were left to wonder what could have been had others been allowed to play in the sandbox.
Indeed, prior to deregulation in the U.S., telecommunications was under the full and complete control of AT&T and its seven subordinate regional companies. Customers could not own their phone. It was illegal to do so. Instead, they had to rent it from AT&T, in whatever color they wanted as long as it was black. Young people may find it amusing, but it was also illegal to attach anything to your phone, such as an answering machine, which was considered a foreign device. Folks were prohibited from even putting a protective cover over their phone as this, too, was illegal.
As for the phone itself, well, dialing 911 required genuine dedication and in some cases time off from work. But the trains ran on time, so to speak, and since there were no other options, no Apple, there was no protest. And again, so many were mesmerized by the grace and craft of AT&T that they rarely considered what could have been.
Do you see how the world appears when there is a vacuum of competitors? That vacuum prevents a public from indulging in alternatives which, ultimately, would reveal the only player as an unimaginative hack. Oh, I said it. Oh yes I did.
MCI Communications sued AT&T in 1974 over restraint in trade, and that was the seminal moment when everything changed. March, 1974. Following the government-enforced break-up of AT&T was a Tsunami of innovation that benefited the consumer and industry in more ways than anyone can count. For the first time consumers could purchase and own their phone. They had choices as to which manufacturer they wanted to buy from, as new entrants in the industry offered automatic redial while others offered answering machines built into the phone. New long distance options appeared, and with them new services, such as call-waiting, speed-dialing, three-way calling, etc.
When AT&T was the only game in town there was no need to create such exciting new products and services; there was no ROI on driving customer costs down or offering more bang for the buck.
Remember, when AT&T was the only game in town, the only color was black.