“We’re improving our coverage, and we’re improving our capacity,” said Don Barbour, regional director external affairs for AT&T in Northwest Georgia. “We’re stretched to the max in capacity.”
The telecommunications industry is being driven like a runaway locomotive by the demand for mobile broadband services. In the United States that broadband spectrum is facing significant constraints.
What makes T-Mobile attractive to AT&T?
“Our two companies have extraordinarily complementary assets. We use the same technologies. … We have network grids and cell site locations that mesh together extremely well,” said Stephanie Walker, a public affairs specialist for AT&T in Atlanta. “As a result, the network synergies of this transaction will allow us simultaneously to improve the quality of existing services (reducing dropped calls and enhancing broadband data speeds) and to create new capacity to carry more mobile Internet traffic.”
AT&T’s mobile data traffic has grown by 8,000 percent during the last four years, and by 2015 the demand is expected to be eight to 10 times what it was in 2010.
The acquisition of T-Mobile is expected to expand 4G LTE service to more than 97 percent of the U.S. population.
In the event you’re not a techie and 4G doesn’t mean anything to you, maybe this does: 4G service means that the device in your shirt pocket or pocketbook can retrieve data as fast, or faster, than a wired laptop computer.
Back in November 2010, at the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce Symposium of Technology, Californian Dave Berkus — known as “Mr. Trend” said that hyper-growth of the Internet will be one of the leading drivers of economic recovery.
Berkus suggested that 80 percent of the people in the world, not just the U.S., would have smart phones within the next 10 years.
Now, perhaps it is easier to understand why AT&T needs to expand its capacity.
“I don’t think anybody is going to give up their devices any time soon,” Barbour said. With the addition of the spectrum and capacity by acquiring T-Mobile, the AT&T network will grow exponentially right away. “If this was another carrier, we would be facing huge issues,” Barbour said.
One of the biggest impacts of the AT&T/T-Mobile deal will be the access that more people in rural Northwest Georgia will have to wireless broadband service.
Doctors in communities like Summerville and elsewhere will be able to take advantage of the growing telemedicine technologies to provide better diagnosis and treatment of patients with heart disease or diabetes, Barbour noted. The wireless smart phone is becoming as important to physicians in rural areas as the stethoscope.
Dr. Al Diaz, medical director at Harbin Clinic, said he is able to communicate through an app on his smart phone with Harbin’s renowned Electronic Medical Records program.
“If a piece of information is needed on the spot, instead of going back to a desk somewhere, you just pull out your cell phone, log in and you can say, ‘your chest X-ray last week showed this,’” Diaz said.
Diaz said that with the physician shortage, particularly in rural areas, that wireless broadband availability will become extremely important.
“Suppose I’m going to give you a medication and you’re taking three others. Is there an interaction? I can plug in your medicine, the ones you’re taking, and then a pharmaceutical software program comes up and tells me no that’s OK, that’s not a problem, Diaz said.
Students from grade school to technical college will be able to access information to enhance their learning experience like never before.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College President Craig McDaniel, who now oversees post secondary education on campuses stretching from Polk, Floyd and Gordon to Walker and Whitfield counties said he supports the merger because it’s going to enhance communication abilities between people in education and industry.
“As the cost of learning resources go up, textbook resources, people in higher education are going to be looking at ways to transfer knowledge digitally,” McDaniel said. About a third of the GNTC students already take online courses.
While McDaniel is a huge fan of online instruction, he admits to a little paranoia about the quality of virtual instruction compared to face-to-face classroom instruction.
He thinks K-12 education will move to digital transfer of information as budgets continue to get cut.
Skeptics of the merger still harp on the competition issue.
“That’s the farthest from the truth,” Barbour said. “The wireless market is fiercely competitive.”
Since the year 2000, there have been a number of major mergers in the wireless industry. Bell Atlantic/GTE and Airtouch combined in April 2000; SBC Communications and BellSouth merged to form Cingular in December 2000; Cingular and AT&T merged in February 2004; Sprint and Nextel combined forces in December 2004 and Verizon picked up Alltel in June 2008.
During the course of those five mergers basic wireless prices have declined 50 percent, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accounting Office.
The tsunami of messaging and data has resulted in consumer demands for faster “on the go” service.
According to Nelson Customer Value Metrics and Recon Analytics, industrywide voice revenue has dropped 30 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005 to the fourth quarter of 2010. The effective price per message for texting has dropped 84 percent from the first quarter of 2005 through the fourth quarter of 2010.
Do not feel sorry for any of the wireless providers. Remember what Berkus said about the number of people carrying smart phones.
A year ago, the Pleistocene (age of dinosaurs) in terms of the growth of modern technology, the Pew Research Center determined that low-income groups in the United States are the fastest growing group of mobile device toters.
On top of that consider the number of people with mobile devices on each hip. (That’s a number that Barbour could not even estimate)
When’s the last time you walked down Broad Street and didn’t encounter someone focused on his or her mobile device? How about the last time you went out to eat and noticed someone who couldn’t take his or her eyes off their smart phone?
Face it, the future is now, and there’s no turning back.