Why AT&T buying T-Mobile could be bad for Wind and Mobilicity

by Dave Loft

The news hit Sunday that AT&T would buy T-Mobile for $39 Billion. This is bad news for anyone in the US as it would mean that AT&T would now be the only national carrier utilizing GSM. The two other national carriers, Verizon and Sprint both use CDMA. For any jet setters out there, it’s hard to find a CDMA phone that also does GSM which would be a requirement to take your phone with you while traveling.

But I’m not here to discuss the implications of this buyout in the US but instead the implications of it in Canada. The first thing I need to explain is that in Canada, Bell, Telus and Rogers all use the same band (frequency) of HSPA, an extension of GSM that allows phones to work on all three carriers. All of these carriers use the same band as AT&T in the US. The smaller carriers in Canada like Wind and Mobilicity use the same band as T-Mobile, a completely different band of HSPA the other carriers offer. This makes a phone from T-Mobile compatible with Wind and Mobilicity, but not a phone from AT&T, Rogers, Bell or Telus.

AT&T plans are to convert all the T-Mobile towers over to their frequencies to expand their network’s capability. To understand why it could affect Wind and Mobilicity you need to step back and look at these networks from a device manufacturers perspective. For device manufactures, carriers are their customers. Manufactures could justify spending the money designing and building phones that are compatible with the very small carriers in Canada, because they also had a big customer in the US.

Now I’m not saying Wind and Mobilicity won’t get any phones, I’m just saying they just won’t get any good ones. AT&T purchase isn’t just bad for T-Mobile customers, it’s bad for all consumers. I’d like to believe that the FCC would have the back bone to keep this from happening, but we all know that’s not going to happen. So don’t count on getting any new Google Nexus phone on either Wind or Mobilicity after this deal goes through.

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