T-Mobile CEO Sees Cable/Wireless Mergers As Inevitable

tmoconfAs we sip the last drops of champagne over the failure of the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, an even bigger acquisition appears to be passing through the regulatory process with relative ease — that of AT&T and DirecTV. And with Comcast, TWC, Charter, and other cable operators all now looking for potential corporate spouses, their eyes may also be turning toward the wireless market.

During T-Mobile’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, CEO John Legere made it clear that the day is coming when people don’t think in terms of wireless companies versus fixed-line cable or fiber broadband.

“We think far too simplistically about the four major carriers and what the structure of the industry is going to be,” he explained, “without understanding that the tangential players in various industries are touching mobile players” in a way that’s going to drive new partnerships and acquisitions.

He repeatedly stated that video, music, and other content are all primarily moving online and that the Internet is all moving toward mobile.

“So there’s a real synergy,” between all these companies. “These other industries are in the same game that we’re in.”

“I’ve always said on consolidation that it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when and how,’” said Legere, “and now I’m gonna add, ‘and who.’”

The T-Mo chief that that people need to stop thinking of cable and mobile as competitors, but as “potential partners and alternatives for each other in the future.”

Further consolidation among the existing wireless players seems unlikely. Following the FCC’s rejection of both the AT&T/T-Mobile deal and the Comcast/TWC merger, there appears to be a tendency to oppose acquisitions that would remove major players from the market or consolidate too many customers under one banner.

But Legere contends that when you just think in terms of delivering online content to consumers in all the ways they want it, “there’s a far more broad set of potential partnerships, integrations, and mergers that the United States could be looking at. In that case, I think you will see consolidation of a much broader set.”

The argument in favor of wireless-cable mergers is that the combined companies would likely complement each other rather, allowing the resulting business to offer both fixed and wireless broadband access without removing a player from either industry. In the AT&T/DirecTV deal, the two companies point out that AT&T will still sell wireless, landline, DSL, and fiber services without taking away from DirecTV’s satellite presence.

What remains to be seen is what conditions, if any, the FCC and Justice Dept. might try to place on that merger. If they aren’t too restrictive, it would not be surprising to see a company like TWC try to make a go at T-Mobile, or for Sprint’s parent company SoftBank try to make a play for a cable or satellite provider.

[via DSLreports.com]

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