The prospects of a merged AT&T and T-Mobile into one massive organization raise some real challenges. Customers feel worried (March 2011) that with such market dominance , it is likely that prices will not come down and service might actually worsen.
The technical part of merging the transmission towers at the back end of the wireless supply chain or the handsets,retail outlets of the two organizations are least of the problems.
A difficult task will be to communicate the combined plans and avoid billing surprises with customers. Customers can get used to paying less for poor wireless signal but the inability of customer service to address customer concerns is hard to deal with. And that is likely to become huge as the approval for the merger gets under way. Here is some data from the Customer Service Scoreboard website:
- AT&T Wireless overall score today 46.72/200
- T-Mobile overall score today 41.02/200
- Verizon Wireless slightly better at 49.56/200
A bigger strategic issue for the wireless industry in the US is that it is rather slow compared to India and other growth markets where:
- Incoming calls are free
- International, long distance and roaming is inexpensive
- Data cards/plans are also very affordable
The US wireless industry needs to see itself as an engine of growth and innovation for the US economy and when global roaming is about $2/ minute – you can be sure that conversations and negotiations are shorter from the US side. That’s opportunity lost for US businesses.