24/7 Wall St. Ten Brands That Will Disappear in 2011

T-Mobile, the US wireless provider, is owned by telecom giant Deutsche Telekom. It is the No.4 cellular company in an American market that only supports two really successful firms—AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless. Even the third largest company in the market—Sprint—has 50 million customers. T-Mobile had 34 million customers at the end of last year. T-Mobile only had a profit of $306 million in 2009. That was down from $483 million in 2008. T-Mobile not only faces three larger competitors, it also has to begin to offer 4G service to compete with Sprint’s new WiMax service and LTE-based products from AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile may seek a partner to offer a 4G network, but there are no super-fast broadband networks likely to be finished before its three rivals offer the service. As it now stands, T-Mobile has no future in the US.

A merger with Sprint-Nextel has been mentioned several times. The combined company would have a customer base about the same size as AT&T or Verizon. And the transaction would probably make Deutsche Telekom a large owner of the combined operation. Another alternative would be a merger with Virgin Mobile.  Virgin Mobil is smaller than T-Mobile, but the Virgin brand is very highly regarded and already extends across a large number of successful businesses. Virgin Group is involved in 200 businesses around the world.  Another potential buyer of T-Mobile’s customer base is Telcel, which has 60 million subscribers in Mexico, is owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, who has already began to expand his business interests of the US. T-Mobile has little brand equity in the US. Maybe Deutsche Telekom will just change the firm’s name.

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