[The Hill] Group says AT&T/T-Mobile merger bad for mobile app makers

Allowing AT&T to purchase T-Mobile would give two firms too much control over the market for mobile software applications and services, according to a computer industry group.

Computer and Communications Industry Association President Edward Black told The Hill on Monday that the deal would hurt the entire Internet ecosystem by giving AT&T the ability to block innovation in the wireless marketplace.

Opponents of the merger claim it would result in a wireless duopoly with the market controlled by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Black argues that AT&T has shown a history of stifling innovation in the past.

The wireless market “is already too consolidated in my mind, but apps makers are given a fairly warm welcome because they are adding value and they make different phones or networks more appealing,” Black said.

“But the terms and limits and conditions getting imposed are clearly getting more onerous and they don’t have the option to reject them when they don’t have another choice to go to.”


Aside from app makers, Black said the merger would also negatively affect handset makers, who would have fewer potential buyers for their wares. However, unlike app developers, which are often small firms, he said handset makers are large and have shown leverage against carriers in the past.

Apple in particular was highlighted for dictating the terms of its release of the iPhone to AT&T several years ago.

Black claims many tech companies are privately opposed to the merger, but are unable to voice their opposition due to their fear of AT&T.

“Whatever any of them may say publicly, it’s clear that behind the scenes they don’t like the merger,” Black said. “Because they are already so vulnerable to AT&T and AT&T’s power you don’t hear them talking against the merger.”

In response, AT&T referred to a May filing in favor of the merger from the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), an industry group which represents app makers.

“Approval of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger is the best immediate step the Commission can take to encourage more efficient and effective use of the currently available wireless spectrum; and it will have tremendous positive effects throughout the mobile apps ecosystem,” wrote ACT.

“Our members, the vast majority of whom are small businesses, will be able to reach more customers than ever before as the combined company embarks on its planned bold deployments of 4G LTE technology.”

The group argues if the merger is approved, “the combined AT&T and T- Mobile will be able to set a national technological bar that Verizon and Sprint will try to beat.”



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