When Comcast gave up on its plans to purchase TW Cable in the face of regulatory opposition, I speculated about a few of its options for inorganic growth. One of them was to pivot to wireless and buy T-Mobile. But I wasn’t really serious — I was just covering all the exits, as it were. However, according to a German magazine today, Comcast actually is in the hunt and it might even have the inside track.
T-Mobile’s rejuvenation into the ‘Uncarrier’ under the leadership of John Legere has been quite a story over the past year or two, yet DT’s overall orientation toward exiting the US hasn’t shifted much. After AT&T was disallowed to buy T-Mobile, and Softbank/Sprint was strongly discouraged while Iliad made a feint, Charlie Ergen’s Dish had most recently emerged as the likely suitor. But if Comcast wants it enough, they will win the auction.
Do I really believe it? That Comcast can operate the ‘Uncarrier’ and not ruin it? Well, the backhaul coverage they bring to the table would certainly help to make things interesting, as there would be strong synergies on that front. Add to that their Xfinity WiFi reach for offloading wireless data traffic, and in terms of assets the idea looks really solid.
But the sticking point is the idea of a cable MSO becoming something other than a cable MSO. It hasn’t really happened yet, at least in the USA. Comcast and its brethren rarely look past their franchise territories for anything other than content, and they have a rather different relationship with their consumer customers than a wireless carrier – let alone T-Mobile.
Buying T-Mobile would require Comcast to step outside its self-imposed walls in a way they haven’t ever needed to do. It makes sense to me that they ought to, and it could be that the time is finally right. But I won’t believe it until I see it.
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