AT&T merger would mean 4G here

Published 12:03 am Thursday, August 4, 2011

If a proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile is approved, most Covington County residents will soon have access to 4G service.

AT&T announced earlier this year its $39 billion plan to acquire T-Mobile USA from the German-owned Deut-sche Tele-kom.

The acquisition would address Ame-rica’s spectrum exhaust challenges.

Spectrum is the range of airwave frequencies that enable devices from broadcast television to cell phones to mobile broadband and even baby monitors.

Gigi Armbrecht, regional director for AT&T Alabama, explained spectrum like this.

“It’s like multiple lanes on a highway,” she said. “As more people use wireless devices, there needs to be more space for them, like an additional lane of traffic.”

And more people are using wireless devices.

Armbrecht said her company’s mobile data traffic grew 8,000 percent over the past four years, increasing the demand for spectrum.

And by merging America’s growing demand for spectrum with the excess spectrum controlled by T-Mobile, AT&T will be able to expand 4G service to more than 55 million more Americans, including many in rural areas.

4G is the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards.

A 4G system is expected to provide a comprehensive and secure all-IP based mobile broadband solution to laptop computer wireless modems, smartphones and other mobile devices, according to Wikipedia.

Having that service is important to rural communities, Armbrecht said, because of the opportunities it can provide through telemedicine, economic development, and education.

It could also be economically beneficial, she said, because historically, when carriers have combined to achieve efficiencies, U.S. wireless prices have fallen.

The ultimate decision on the deal rests with the Justice Department, that is conducting an antitrust review, and the FCC, which is weighing whether the transaction is in the public interest.

Opponents charge that less competition will increase prices and limit consumer choice.

Armbrecht said the public comment period ended on June 20.

While the company waits for the two decisions, it is encouraging potential consumers to support the proposed merger with letters and phone calls.