iPhone Unlockers, American Public Are Screwed: AT&T Buys T-Mobile USA

It was only a matter of time…and money.

Boy, all those TV ads sure need to disappear fast, don’t they?

After these started airing, I figured, “well, the T-Mobile buyout rumors can finally be put to bed, right?”

Since the iPhone’s launch and up until the announcement of Verizon’s iPhone 4, T-Mobile hacking was the only option for a non-AT&T iPhone. The GSM antennae hardware in the AT&T iPhone was only ever theoretically compatible with AT&T or T-Mobile. It couldn’t be hacked, cracked, or whatever to run on the Verizon or Sprint networks, no matter what ignorant people who walk into Apple Stores have been saying for years.

I’ve been running hacked iPhones on T-Mobile since 2007. I did it without the advantage of 3G speed, but the fact that I could actually make and receive calls without dropping them was wonderful in and of itself. The whole time I was doing that, I was worried this would happen and I’d be stuck with AT&T in a buyout situation. That’d mean goodbye to unlimited data, among various other things.

This whole thing affects tons of cellular phone user across the U.S. in major ways: some beneficially, but not so for the American public at large.

On the one hand…this is the best move that AT&T could have made over the last few years: buy up T-Mobile and all their cell tower bandwidth. It would have prevented the openly-hostile relationship with the majority of their customers that has mutated out of control.

Different states, counties, and cities have varying regulations governing the building of new cell towers. That’s what’s prevented AT&T from just building a ton of them to deal with the exponentially larger strain on AT&T’s network since the iPhone’s launch.

This move is undoubtedly going to ease the strain on AT&T and make it easier for them to scale their network in the years to come.

On the other hand…T-Mobile was the safe haven for people who didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for cellular service and preferred customer service lines that actually pick up rather than say they’re closed. Don’t even get me started on transfers to other departments.

The disappearance of this fourth leg of competition in the mobile world means one thing: more bullshit “tethering add-on” plans, data caps, overage charges, and so on.

AT&T will become the nation’s largest carrier by a huge margin over Verizon: 125-130 million subscribers versus Verizon’s total in the low 90’s. It wouldn’t surprise any of their customers to say that they will throw that weight around more liberally than they already did.

T-Mobile has lots of great business practices and products that they bring to the table, but no one should be so deluded to think that those things are likely to stick around. T-Mobile’s international calling options were great (unlike AT&T’s horror show), but note my hesitation-free use of past tense. Everything that T-Mobile subscribers like about their service are very likely going to disappear pretty fast. I’m not opposed to being wrong here, but look at the track record and tell me I’m being overly pessimistic.

No matter how forgiving you want to be about this, it means less players in the game, which translates to much less competition and innovation.

Let’s start the “Verizon to Buy Sprint” pool now, shall we?

Fill our comments section with opinions and anger, since you probably can’t reach anyone at either company who would care.

*I specify T-Mobile USA, since T-Mobile itself is a much larger company. AT&T is only buying T-Mobile’s U.S. interests