Will T-Mobile or Dish Eat a Bug?

Cricket_LeapIs Leap Wireless a tasty bug?

According for FierceBroadbandWireless, which has a good eye for such things, T-Metro (really, T-Mobile and its recent meal, MetroPCS) might be getting hungry again.  This time it may be looking to eat a bug, namely a Cricket (Wireless), which is the trade name for Leap Wireless.

Oddly, I’ve been saying about the same thing about T-Mobile and MetroPCS for a while, now.

Of course, your parent(s) taught you not to eat off the floor, so it’s possible Dish might make a running Leap to eat the same bug.

For T-Mobile, this meal would squarely in the middle of its favored food groups.

Leap’s PCS system–and as importantly its customers’ handsets–are generally compatible with T-Metro’s network.  Better yet, there very little overlap between the MetroPCS and Cricket networks.  metro_cricket_coverage

How do I know about the minimal overlap?

Using home coverage maps available on the web as a yardstick, I imported Cricket’s and MetroPCS’s maps into Photoshop and overlaid then one atop the other.

Using the Photoshop Multiply tool, it was easy to see that the only basic overlap between the two networks is in central California with much lesser overlaps in Las Vegas, small parts of Georgia, and even smaller parts of Texas.

Who says everything is bigger in Texas?  Oops.  Sorry…

In the map, purple is MetroPCS’s home coverage; green and orange belong to Cricket; the dark green shows the overlap of the two networks.

Now you can see why Cricket’s frequencies (remember, this is all about frequencies for 4G+ uses, not about pops) complement MetroPCS’s.  Both complement T-Mobile’s footprint.

But wait!

What about Dish…the recent near-spoiler of the Softbank-Sprint-Clearwire deals?

I just don’t see it.

Yeah, Dish has a whole boatload of money burning holes in the bottom of their satellite receivers, but why spend the cash on little green dots and orange when the purple’s already dished on to on someone else’s plate (or dish)?

The smarter move would be for Dish to make a run on mama T-Mobile herself, with a pretty good national network already in place, and Deutsche Telekom an apparently willing on-again, off-again seller.

While I don’t rule out Dish, I simply don’t think it makes much sense for them to be a buyer of this bug.

Perhaps Dish will be a spoiler, again.

Time will tell.  Just listen for the gurgling stomachs.


Sprint to Clearwire: How ’bout a Bigger Dowry?

cleardishbrokenlogoSo, in the latest chapter of the SoftSprint-Clearwire-Dish matrimonial saga, it looks like SoftSprint will indeed take Clearwire to the alter.

Yesterday, Sprint (which had sued Clearwire just three days before to block the sale to Dish) decided to up its offer from $3.40 to $5.00, topping Dish’s offer of $4.40.

Just to make sure that Clearwire doesn’t take the ring off the finger one more time, Sprint’s amended marriage proposal contract with Clearwire provides for Clearwire to pay Sprint a break-up fee of $115 million should Clearwire get cold feet…again.

I have to imagine that there were some very interesting conversations between Japan and Kansas about what would happen to the value of the SoftSprint deal if Clearwire went off and married Dish.  Soft needs Clearwire’s frequency allotments to make its Sprint purchase ‘reasonable’…it didn’t need cash nearly as much.  Soft so much as signed that point exactly when it made noises yesterday about making a run for T-Metro if the SofSprint deal collapses.

Lest anyone be unclear:

  1. Clearwire is all about licensed frequencies for LTE; not WiMax, facilities or customers;
  2. Sprint only makes sense with Clearwire’s licensed frequencies; forget about the cash;
  3. SoftSprint only makes sense with Sprint’s sites being upgraded to Network Vision and getting control of Clearwire’s licensed frequencies.

There you go!



T-Mobile MetroPCS Deal Done – Closing on May 1

t-metroMetroPCS’s shareholders approved the merger with T-Mobile.  The deal is sealed, and should close within the next 7 days.

For (1) most MetroPCS cell site landlords, (2) a few T-Mobile landlords, and (3) likely all landlords with a MetroPCS and T-Mobile lease atthe same site, you should start planning for the early termination of a lease…and that income.

More to follow.


FCC OKs T-Mobile/MetroPCS Merger: Free Lease Analysis for Landlords

t-metroThe FCC voted to approve T-Mobile’s application to acquire MetroPCS.

The next step–and perhaps the last real hurdle before the merger can be completed–is an affirmative vote of MetroPCS shareholders during a scheduled April 12 shareholders meeting.

For MetroPCS site landlords, this is a major step towards the shuttering of some 10,000 MetroPCS sites.  See my story on this from last November.

Most likely, the earliest hits will occur to cell sites that presently have both MetroPCS and T-Mobile leases.   The likely next round will be for MetroPCS sites located near existing T-Mobile sites. Finally, it’s quite likely that some T-Mobile sites will be shuttered where an existing collocated or nearby MetroPCS site will better suit the needs of the merged company.  This may well be the case if you area a T-Mobile site Landlord currently receiving an ab0ve-market rental rate, and a suitable nearby MetroPCS site is available for joint use.

Is your existing cell site lease and income at risk? No-charge lease analysis for MetroPCS and T-Mobile Landlords.

If you are presently a MetroPCS or T-Mobile site Landlord, Telecom Law Firm, P.C. is offering a no-charge, no obligation lease review to help you quantify your risk,  prepare for possible site termination, and develop strategies to deal with the outgoing carrier.   Just give us a call toll-free on 855-CELL SITE (855-235-5748 ) and let’s talk.  You won’t be on the clock.


T-Metro Says It Will Shutter 10,000 MetroPCS sites if…

…their merger is approved by the federal government. This represents about 87% of all of the MetroPCS sites, excluding the DAS nodes. MetroPCS estimates that this will save them…really, T-Mobile…about $7B in site lease costs.

Doing some back-of-the-napkin calculations based on a 25 year average term, a $7B savings would work out to average blended going forward monthly rent of $2,333. Over a 30 years term, monthly rent drops out to about $1,944, blended. Frankly, this that sounds high to me, but perhaps my napkin is a bit wet.

MetroPCS’s announcement also alludes to an interesting technology conclusion: T-Mobile is satisfied with the bulk of its existing coverage from its existing sites.  It must believe that it can take MetroPCS’s bandwidth and redeploy it from T-Mobile’s existing sites, most likely using upgraded base transceiver/telecommunications station (“BTS”) cabinets.  For the non-technical of you reading this, this means that the MetroPCS acquisition is a bandwidth/capacity play; not a coverage play.

Without the passage of Section 6409(a), this pending deal might not have happened.  We’ll see how the constitutional challenges to Section 6409(a) impact this deal.

MetroPCS’s announcement is yet another cautionary tale to potential wireless site landlords…

Wireless site landlords are most often bound to lease for 25 to 30 years with few, if any, real ‘outs.’  Conversely, the typical tenant ‘outs’ in a lease make their side of the deal really only a 30 day guarantee (if you’re lucky you might get 6 months).

For those of you who are considering entering into new leases, you are best served to carefully evaluate whether a 30 year v. 30 day commitment makes real sense.  If not, then keep negotiating.  If you are a wireless site landlord with a tenant requesting a renewal, extension, or modification, this is the time to negotiate a meaningful termination clause.  This is what we tell our clients, and what we do for our clients.

We also tell our clients, ‘Sometimes the best deal is the one you walk away from.’

Food for thought on this Thanksgiving.




Did Sprint+Network Vision-Lightsquared = Sprint+Clearwire+Softbank?

I’ve been thinking about why Sprint has now decided to sell itself to Softbank.

It seems to me that one possible answer would be to blame Clearwire and then LightSquared.

Clearwire was to be Sprint’s first (but not last) 4G answer, but WiMax never took off.  In fact, the only thing about Clearwire that took off were some of its major investors, like Google looking elsewhere to invest and actually make money on the investment.

Comes then Lightsquared, with its grand plan to deploy 4G services to various existing carriers using a very odd frequency band adjacent to the widely-relied upon GPS downlink band.   Sprint loved its new 4G provider, especially since Lightsquared was to pay $9 billion-ish to Sprint to use the new Network Vision platform.  While Lightsquared would be free sell its services through other carriers, it would be in a sense captive to Sprint since it would be a major network platform provider for Lightsquared’s services.  It seems clear that Sprint’s Network Vision project moved forward, certainly in significant measure because of Lightsquared’s funding commitment.

Then came that nasty little GPS interference problem and sunk Lightquared, and resulted in a bankruptcy filing.

Sprint was left holding a $9 billion bag looking for another funding source for Network Vision.  Before Softbank, no major replacements had stepped up.  Sprint began shuttering Nextel sites as quickly as they could to reduce that ongoing lease load while pushing new Network Vision sites out into the field.

Not fast enough, apparently.

Now comes Softbank to offer up a huge capital infusion and other goodies for a 70% stake in Sprint.  And, Softbank is eyeing Sprint’s nearly-kaput first 4G love, Clearwire.  Word on the street is that Sprint, tracking Softbank’s longing eye, will try to take actual control of Clearwire, which was something denied it by the original investment agreement that kept Clearwire as a separate entity from Sprint.  That would certainly make Sprint’s current love very, very happy.

One thing for sure: The T-Mobile+MetroPCS and Softbank+Sprint+Clearwire equations equal big trouble for the rapidly-disappearing smaller regional wireless carriers.

It would not surprise me to see virtually no regional carriers, and only four major wireless carriers in the U.S.: Verizon, AT&T, T-Metro, and SoftSprint.  Following, I envision a T-Metro split-up shortly after it figures out that all it did was to replicate the dumb Sprint Nextel technically incompatible deal that started Sprint’s slide into the current Softbank sale.

Then there would be 3.   Then you’ll hear the pin dropping on the table.


Jonathan Atkin on the pending T-Metro marriage

Jonathan Atkin analyzes the wireless sector for RBC Capital Markets, LLC.

Better put, Jon dissects the wireless sector, looking at the players, numbers, and technologies in multiple contexts and from multiple angles spotting nuances leading to a much deeper and more complete worldview of wireless.

I have had the pleasure of hearing Jon present at several AGL regional conferences, and I always walk away from his presentations with a much keener view of the wireless industry and its direction(s).

Jon released a research report a few days ago on the pending T-Metro marriage that is well worth reading and understanding. He summarizes his research this way:

Our initial take is that a potential business combination between T-Mobile and MetroPCS is of dubious merit for Deutsche Telekom under business conditions and public-market valuations. We expect few regulatory barriers to such a deal, and believe Sprint could benefit competitively.

Jon points out that the proposed T-Metro intermarriage is one of different transmission technology religions. This rules out quick systems’ integrations and synergies as each partner will continue to practice its own signal transmission religion for for foreseeable future. He cites Sprint as a much more suitable marriage partner for MetroPCS given that both of them practice the same signal transmission technology religion. (Hey, it’s my metaphor…go with it.)

Not mentioned in Jon’s analysis is that with Sprint’s deployment of its Network Vision project, that firm will be in a much better position to rapidly deploy MetroPCS services from the new Network Vision sites. This would allow Sprint to shutter some/many MetroPCS sites quickly, substantially reducing site lease rental costs, especially at existing collocated Sprint/MetroPCS sites.

The funny thing is that a Sprint+MetroPCS marriage would be much more likely to succeed compared with the disastrous Sprint+Nextel marriage, which, like the pending T-Metro marriage, is based on each marriage partner practicing a different and incomparable signal transmission religion.

Jon notes that even if the T-Metro marriage is consummated, the new shared life of those partners will be distracting early on in their new union, opening the door for Sprint (and Leap Wireless) to push forward. My gut feeling is that a consummated marriage between T-Mobile+MetroPCS will prompt a Sprint+Leap marriage.

Read Jon’s report by clicking here: Hello, Hello, Hallo – Thoughts on Potential DT/PCS Tie-Up.



The Spectrum Dilemma: What’s a Carrier to do?

AT&T’s intended takeover of T-Mobile was supposed to give AT&T access and control of badly needed spectrum. The demands on spectrum are growing faster than Apple can sell iPhones. Unfortunately, while AT&T was busy trying to consume the 4th largest wireless provider in the United States and fighting with the Department of Justice, Verizon was quietly moving to buy up the undeveloped spectrum held by the major cable providers (a completely different bedtime story for the DOJ to dream about…as they apparently are starting to do).

The result? Verizon’s spectrum purchases have gobbled the available spectrum that might have otherwise been available for an AT&T purchase.

T-Mobile, the long-suffering ‘we don’t have enough spectrum’ player, also missed out on the opportunity to buy spectrum from the cable providers.

Both AT&T and T-Mobile are desperate for spectrum, so what are they to do?

The DOJ, as we have all learned, has a big problem when the number 2 and number 4 providers attempt to merge (something having to do with a little thing called Antitrust).

Might the next baby step for AT&T be to acquire MetroPCS? Maybe that’s T-Mobile’s next bid, too.

It makes sense for both AT&T and T-Mobile to be interested in acquiring MetroPCS because it has a nationwide PCS footprint that is only growing with its all-you-can-eat, no contract approach.

Or maybe the next step is more of a LEAP (Wireless, that is, which has been rumored to be an acquisition target).

Two things are for sure: First, AT&T needs more paired frequencies, and they need them yesterday Second, T-Mobile either has to mate with one or more smaller regional carriers, or try mating with Sprint. AT&T’s parting gift to T-Mobile of $4B for the failed marriage would make a lovely trousseau.


Yes, the world really is getting FLATTER.

T-Mobile has jumped on the $99.99 flat-rate bandwagon.

Following Verizon’s and AT&T’s lead, T-Mobile has said:

BELLEVUE, Wash., Feb. 19, 2007 – T-Mobile USA, Inc., announces today that it will offer consumers a plan that includes unlimited nationwide wireless calling and unlimited nationwide messaging for $99.99 per month. This offer will be available beginning Thursday, Feb. 21, and will be a great value for new and existing T-Mobile customers.

“T-Mobile is passionate about helping people stick together with those who matter most, and providing them with the best value is one way we help our customers do that,” said Jeff Hopper, vice president, Marketing, T-Mobile USA. “This offering empowers people to communicate as much as they like on their own terms – whether it’s voice, text messaging, picture messaging or IM.”
With this new plan, domestic roaming and long distance charges are included. Unlimited messaging includes text messages (SMS), picture messages (MMS) and instant messages (IM).

T-Mobile also offers its popular myFaves plans — affordable unlimited calling plans suited for a majority of its customers — beginning at just $39.99 per month.More information and qualifying details will soon be available at www.t-mobile.com.

More pressure on MetroPCS, Cricket, etc.


Who said the world is round? Apparently not AT&T Wireless or Verizon Wireless.

When it comes to wireless usage pricing, the world is flattening out. AT&T and Verizon have announced $99.99 (gee, I’m glad it’s not $100!) flat rate ‘all-you-can-eat’ talk plans.

The chief losers here are MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless, as well as the other flat-rate carriers who have found a niche in this sector. Oh, yes, AT&T iPhone users are also losers since the AT&T flat rate plan won’t apply to their phones. Too bad, so sad.

Below is Verizon’s press release, followed by AT&T’s press release



BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Verizon Wireless is moving the industry forward with the introduction of game-changing voice and data plans. The builder and operator of the nation’s most reliable wireless network today announced the immediate availability of new Nationwide Unlimited Anytime Minute Plans. The plans give customers all their calls – anytime to anyone in the U.S., including landline phones – at a flat rate for $99.99 monthly access. BroadbandAccess Plans are also being enhanced so customers now have two choices for Internet browsing, e-mail access and downloading files. The new BroadbandAccess plans, available on March 2, will offer customers monthly data plan options of 50 Megabytes (MB) or 5 Gigabytes (GB) (5,120 MB).

“Verizon Wireless is changing the way customers think about wireless,” said Mike Lanman, Verizon Wireless chief marketing officer. “The new flat rate voice plans truly free customers from the worry of counting minutes, while the new data plan options allow more customers to experience the freedom of mobile broadband. These enhancements are also an acknowledgement that wireless has evolved and more people than ever depend on it as a primary means of communication in every aspect of their lives.”

BroadbandAccess, the company’s flagship data service, allows customers to experience average download speeds of 600 kilobits per second (kbps) to 1.4 megabits per second and average upload speeds of 500-800 kbps, which means customers can download a 1 MB e-mail attachment in about eight seconds and upload the same-sized file in less than 13 seconds. Customers will be able to take full advantage of these speeds with two options: 50 MB data usage for $39.99 monthly access or 5 GB data usage for $59.99 monthly access.

“These new flat rate plans make mobile broadband more affordable than ever,” said Lanman. “The $39.99 plan is perfect for the occasional or light data user, while the $59.99 plan meets the needs of the majority of heavy data users. The plans are easy to understand and give customers the technology they need to manage their lives – both business and personal.”

Verizon Wireless can make this industry leading move because it has invested nearly $44 billion since it was formed – $5.5 billion on average every year – to increase the coverage and capacity of its national network and to add new services. The company was also the first to offer customers a guarantee that pays for equipment and service if customers are not satisfied within 30 days and want to move their service to a different carrier.

“Wireless service is a powerful tool that has vastly changed the way we live. Verizon Wireless decided to take the next step by evolving our plans to meet the needs of customers who depend on our service to stay connected. We have enhanced our pricing portfolio because some customers just needed more freedom for their wireless dollar,” Lanman added.

Here’s AT&T’s press release:

AT&T to Launch Unlimited U.S. Calling Plan

$99.99 Plan Available Feb. 22 for New and Existing Customers

San Antonio, Texas, February 19, 2008

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) announced today new unlimited voice plans targeted to wireless users who want the predictability of flat rate pricing for unlimited minutes. The plans will be available to new and existing wireless subscribers for $99.99 a month for unlimited U.S. calling on all devices with no domestic roaming or long distance charges. The plans can be combined with any current wireless data plan to give customers the ultimate in wireless freedom.

The new plans, available Feb. 22, can be ordered at one of AT&T’s 2,200 company-owned retail stores and kiosks, at www.att.com, or at one of the thousands of authorized AT&T retail locations. Existing customers can choose unlimited calling without extending their contract. New customers have the option of a month-to-month, 12 or 24 month contract.

As with other voice calling plans, AT&T customers can choose from a variety of MEdia Net and messaging plans to meet their needs. For example, customers with standard wireless phones* can choose a data plan such as $5 for 200 text, picture, video and instant messages or $35 for unlimited messaging and MEdia Net access.

“We are pleased to offer our customers these great new plans that deliver value and simplified pricing,” said Ralph de la Vega, president & CEO, AT&T Mobility. “This is a highly competitive market and we’re committed to moving fast to meet customer needs.”

AT&T customers benefit from the nation’s largest digital voice and data network, with 3G broadband available in more than 260 major metropolitan markets. The company recently announced plans to expand its 3G network to 350 markets, including all of the top 100.

*Standard wireless phones do not include smartphones or PDAs or the iPhone.