With the US slowing down carrier consolidation, Europe may be the next step in AT&T expansion
CEO of AT&T Randall Stephenson said his company is looking towards Europe for possible carrier acquisitions in the future, citing the fact that there are just more opportunities across the Atlantic. Speaking at an investor conference in New York, Stephenson explained that Verizon's recent buyout of Vodafone's 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless has opened his eyes to the potential of carriers in Europe.
AT&T's attempt at a $39 billion buyout of T-Mobile two years ago was swiftly shut down by the US government, indicating to the carrier that the prospects of more consolidation in the US wireless industry on that scale have been seriously cut back.
"We have pretty much written off that any kind of large-scale deal in our sector is going to get done ... going from four players to three is kind of a threshold issue."
Said Stephenson, referring to more large carrier buyouts in the US. Europe, on the other hand, has a wide variety of carriers of all sizes and types — each being a possible foreign acquisition target for AT&T to expand overseas. Stephenson's potential plans for Europe involve large investments in networks that see potential in shifting to increase data usage by customers and capitalize on that new increase.
Naturally there are issues to be faced with a move into the European market, both in terms of the market differences between the region and the US as well as public policy issues. The way spectrum licenses are handled in Europe pose potential hurdles to whether or not money is well spent in certain countries, as does the general decline of revenues for carriers due to increased competition.
Although we have seen some relatively big moves as of late in the US with T-Mobile purchasing MetroPCS and Sprint receiving a strategic investment from SoftBank, it's clear that if AT&T is looking to expand its operations it will have to do so in foreign markets.