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AT&T touts merger plan
[July 11, 2011]

AT&T touts merger plan

Jun 28, 2011 (The Pueblo Chieftain - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The proposed acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T would provide short- and long-term benefits to Southern Colorado, AT&T executives said Monday.

The move would enable AT&T to provide high-speed wireless broadband coverage over a wider area, including rural areas of Colorado, said AT&T Services Colorado President William Soards.

"The rural aspects are really telling," Soards said, pointing to a map that shows how AT&T's plans would expand with the T-Mobile acquisition.

"Increasing the coverage area is a big benefit for rural Colorado because it helps in public safety, economic development and education." The acquisition would allow AT&T to provide 4G LTE (long-term evolution) coverage to 95 percent of the U.S. by adding T-Mobile territory to its own. That includes Pueblo and all of the populated areas within the Arkansas and Rio Grande valleys.

Among other impacts, employment at AT&T's Pueblo call center likely would increase with the purchase of T-Mobile, Soards said. The center currently employs 550.

"There would be more products and services available for this area. We need to grow, and Pueblo has been a great community to do business with," Soards said. "What you would see immediately is improved service quality for existing customers." Soards, along with Jay Boyle, District 7 staff representative for the Communications Workers of America, talked with Pueblo business leaders Monday.

Today, they are hosting meetings in Alamosa and La Junta for selected civic leaders to talk about the deal. Their goal is to generate local support for the planned deal.

"From my observation, it is good for Pueblo and Southern Colorado," said Dan Centa, president of Pueblo Economic Development Corp. "They've been a good employer for the state of Colorado and I think this will expand and help the employee base here." While the agreement for AT&T to purchase T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom is on track to be completed by the end of the year, it still needs approval from the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T would pay Deutsche Telekom $39 billion.

The transaction is being contested by Sprint.

"We really need the bandwidth capacity," Soards said. "Every time we open a new cell site, it is at or near capacity within five days of being deployed. We have to have that ability today, and the best way of doing that is to acquire T-Mobile." Right now, 4G LTE is not offered in Colorado.

Without the T-Mobile sites, AT&T would not be able to bring the service into the Arkansas and Rio Grande valleys, as well as large parts of the rest of the state. The bandwidth is needed because larger data files, not just voice calls, are now being moved over wireless networks, Soards explained.

The integration of the two companies would be seamless, because they now share the same technological platform.

"There would be a benefit for consumers almost immediately with the integration of services," Soards said.

Communications Workers of America favors AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile over Sprint, Boyle said.

"Either way, it's going to sell. We're comfortable with AT&T because they are union neutral," Boyle said. "AT&T recently negotiated with us to bring 3,000 jobs back on-shore." A May white paper by CWA compares Sprint and AT&T, and concludes AT&T is the better choice because of technology, the companies' past records with mergers and finances, as well as union policy.

"I don't think Sprint's anti-union policy is the deal-breaker," Boyle said. "Instead, AT&T's track record is a deal-maker for us." To see more of The Pueblo Chieftain, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

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