Will AT&T Pay a Break Up Fee to T-Mobile?

According to a news item making the rounds this morning, AT&T may well be on the hook to the tune of 6 billion bucks if the proposed merger with T-Mobile isn’t approved by the FCC. If the feds refuse to allow the $39 billion deal to go through, AT&T will pay out $3 billion in cash, $2 billion in specturm and yet another billion in the form of a roaming agreement. All of this dough will apparently be offered up as a “break up fee,” which likely enticed T-Mobile to agree to this deal in the first place. It’s a win-win situation for the company, after all. Even if they lose, they are still coming out ahead in a very big way.

This high amount proves that AT&T is pretty confident that they can convince regulators to approve the proposed deal. Companies such as Sprint, of course, are vehemently opposed to the sale. The cash portion of this deal alone is worth nearly 8% of the total deal price, and the addition of the assets and services mean that these two companies are smashing previous records when it comes to break up fees.

Your mouth is likely hanging wide open after reading these numbers. Think of it from T-Mobile’s point of view, though. The deal is not just about them making boatloads of money… their services would be drastically improved by joining with AT&T. If the sale doesn’t go through, the company stands to still languish as a lesser provider. The spectrum fee alone will pay for about 10 megahertz of spectrum. This is the absolute minimum required to offer high-speed wireless service to consumers.

That 10 megahertz would more than DOUBLE T-Mobile’s current available specturm for your high-speed services, y’all. The company would then be able to increase data speeds by about 1 1/2 times over what you are used to now. 20 megahertz would increase speeds by nearly four times. In a time when data speeds are important to all of us when choosing a provider, losing out on the chance to merge with AT&T will still allow T-Mobile to become much more competitive – without having to raise their prices in order to do so.

What are your thoughts on the entire proposal? Are you in favor of the deal, or against it? Do you believe that these extremely high break up fees are within the realm of normal these days?

Will Your Cell Phone Save Your Life?

The FCC will announce their new emergency warning system later today, which is called the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN). This new service will let emergency officials send text messages to cellular devices in locations where something may threaten your safety and well-being. Alerts will continue on television and radio stations. However, the FCC recognizes that not all of us even utilize a tv or radio these days. We do, however, have our phones with us nearly every moment of the day. As seen with a similar service in Japan, many lives can be saved with a quick text message warning of imminent danger.

New York should have the free PLAN service in place before the end of this year, along with Washington, D.C. The four major cell providers – AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint – plan to initiate the service well before the April, 2012 deadline around the nation. Some of the phones currently in your possession (including a few iPhones and Android offerings) already have the required circuitry needed to receive the alerts. The iPhones which have the chip in place will need software updates. New AT&T phones due to arrive in October of this year will be ready for the PLAN.

You will be signed up to receive the alerts automagically. You can, however, opt out of messages warning of imminent threat and Amber Alerts if you choose. You can not opt out of the “presidential alerts.” When you think about it, you’ll realize that you likely won’t want to opt out of these types of messages, y’all. If you heard that a huge tornado was on a path to completely miss your area, would you hear a siren or television alert in time when that storm suddenly changes its path? Personally, I’d rather get the notice on my phone instantly, and be ready to take action.

During any type of emergency or terrorist threat, alerts will be initiated by government agencies. As soon as FEMA and PLAN have correctly identified a valid alert, it will be immediately forwarded to all wireless providers. These companies, in turn, will relay the message to you. This may seem like it will take a lot of time, but it is designed to happen nearly instantly. If you are in the affected area, you will receive the message. If you live in that area but are out of town – no message for you. Likewise, people visiting a targeted area will receive the message while they are there if one should be issued.

You may be groaning, thinking that this entire setup sounds like a pain in your side. I’ve heard a few people complain about it already – how “annoying” these texts will be. For one thing… I certainly hope that we aren’t having terrorist actions on a regular basis. The same goes for tornadoes or hurricanes. It’s not like you’ll receive messages every five minutes.

I don’t know about you, but an “annoying” message is not so annoying when it’s saving your life.

AT&T Admits It Cannot Handle the Traffic

The truth? You can’t handle the truth! This quote from the movie “A Few Good Men” pretty much sums up the way I feel about the news flying around the web today regarding AT&T. I’m angry – much as many of you are. Guess what, oh darling AT&T? We already knew you couldn’t handle our iPhone traffic. We’ve known this for nearly four years now. We’ve attempted to tell you. We’ve begged and pleaded. We have whined, nagged and thrown virtual temper tantrums. FINALLY you admit there’s an actual problem. Doing this a long time ago would have gone a long way towards keeping customers happy and loyal to your company.

In today’s FCC filing, the mobile giant admits that it needs help in order to succeed. It clearly lays out the reasoning for wanting to buy out T-Mobile: it needs the additional boost to the network. The company’s mobile data volume jumped by more than 8,000% in the time period from 2007 to 2010. As a result, its network is dealing with capacity constraints far more severe than any other provider. Sure, Verizon has the iPhone now, as well… along with other smartphones. But the sheer volume of this Apple device on AT&Ts network has brought the carrier to its knees.

AT&T claims in the filing that the buyout “will thus benefit consumers by reducing the number of dropped and blocked calls, increasing data speeds, improving in-building coverage, and dramatically expanding deployment of next-generation mobile technology.” With devices such as the iPhone generating more than twenty times the amount of data a conventional smartphone does, the network is clogged on a constant basis. Calls are dropped and lost. Downloads are stalled. Connections aren’t available. It’s a nightmare, and one which AT&T hopes will end with this merger.

The company has said repeatedly that there isn’t time to beef up its network on its own. It takes years to get proper permits and things lined up in order to build even one tower. Imagine the time – and money – it would take to erect enough towers to make the network truly stable again. This merger makes sense for that reason alone – but not everyone agrees.

Sprint is vehemently opposed, for obvious reasons. The merger will undoubtedly make the company an enormous one. Sprint wants the government to put the kibosh on the entire deal, claiming that it will create a “duopoly” which will prevent other companies from being competitive. Sprint also feels that the deal will raise prices through the roof.

As an AT&T customer, I sure won’t mind having a more stable and reliable network. I don’t want to sneer when the Verizon guy asks if I can hear him now. I’d like to simply use my phone anytime – and anywhere – I wish. I can see the point of view of the competing businesses and those opposed. I don’t know… what do you think? Is this a deal that should be allowed? Keep in mind that the data demands on AT&T – and all other companies – will continue to skyrocket over the next few years. Should they be merging together in this manner, or should they be attempting to build more towers?

What is Apple Hiding with the iPhone 4?

Apple has asked the FCC to keep information regarding iPhone 4 under wraps for at least 45 days. In the June 4th letter to the FCC, Apple EMC and Wireless Compliance Manager Robert Steinfeld said that “”Although Apple has begun to market the device publicly, these documents reveal technical and design information that has not been publicly disclosed in such marketing and that is protected by Apple as confidential and proprietary secrets.”

Is Apple really hiding anything, or are they simply trying to protect their turf until the device has officially launched? The letter further states that “Apple firmly believes the period of confidentiality requested is necessary to protect the information until the commercial release of the device.” That doesn’t seem so odd to me… until the next paragraph.

In the very next sentence, Robert formally asks the FCC to “indefinitely” withhold several other types of documents, including antenna gain patterns, the operational description and several of the schematics. He claims that these documents “reveal detailed technical and design information that is protected by Apple as confidential and proprietary trade secrets.” Understandable… to a point. The problem with that is the fact that asking the FCC to permanently deny any access to those documents borders on unfair marketplace advantage.

What are your thoughts on this? Should Apple be allowed to have certain pieces of information about the new iPhone blocked from our eyes indefinitely?

Goodbye iFrame Toolbar – Hello Sites Now Unbanned on Digg.

Things sure are shaking up around the Digg offices this week. On his first official day as CEO, Kevin Rose has laid out a few interesting changes which should vastly improve the popular social networking site. The DiggBar we have all come to hate is going to finally disappear in the upcoming version of the site. Additionally, all previously banned domains will have their restrictions removed – not including those sites with malicious intent.

With surprising candor, Rose admitted that the toolbar was a mistake from the beginning. “Framing content with an iFrame is bad for the Internet. It causes confusion when bookmarking, breaks w/iFrame busters, and has no ability to communicate with the lower frame. It’s an inconsistent/wonky user experience.”

Both of these are positive moves for the site in my humble opinion. I have read thousands of rants regarding the toolbar, and I have a feeling that no one is going to miss it. Do you Digg? Are you looking forward to the changes? If so, you can sign up to beta-test the new version now. If you do, let us know what you think!

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