Texas & California may see the largest dominant carrier post-merger-MetaFacts TUPdate

Texas & California may see the largest dominant carrier post-merger

A MetaFacts TUPdate by Dan Ness, Principal Analyst

With the prospective merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, would the combined dominant share be very different in some states than in others?

Also, will the fog of merger give competitors enough pause to secure their unique clienteles, and attract more of the same?

Nationwide, the combined share of the top three carriers would increase from just over two-thirds (68%) to nearly eight in ten (78%).

Post-merger Carrier Domination

In our most recent wave of Technology User Profile, we found that three carriers – Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobile, and T-Mobile, collectively hold a 68% share. This is based on the broadest active market – subscribers of mobile carriers using Smartphones or Basic Mobile Phones, with either contract or pre-paid agreements, and among online adults. Combining the subscriber share of AT&T Mobile and T-Mobile, this boosts Sprint into the top group, so that the top three carriers collectively command 78%.

There is a regional difference, in some cases due to the growing popularity of simpler more cost-effective prepaid agreements through MVNOs, and in other cases to the strength of regional operators.

The combined AT&T/T-Mobile share would be 50% or higher in two states: Texas with 55% and California with 50%.

In the Northeast, TracFone is popular enough to be included in the post-merger top 3 carriers, although with a distant 9% to AT&T/T-Mobile & Verizon’s collective 73%. TracFone’s Northeast share is buoyed by New York and Pennsylvania, where the 9% share is similarly far from the two leaders 70% and 73%, respectively.

Among the major states, Wisconsin is unique in the strength of regional carrier US Cellular, which holds a 19% share, even besting nationally-second Verizon. No other regionals have that position or share.

Across other states and regions, Sprint has a third-ranked position. In most key states, Sprint’s share is less than half of the second-ranked carrier.

Whether or not these heightened levels of market dominance constitute a problem will depend primarily on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). One of their statistical tests for market concentration is the Herfindal-Hirschman Index (HHI) which summarizes the relative difference of shares. Industries with scores of more than 1,800 are considered concentrated. If post-merger, using our current market share results, Texas would have an HHI of 3,396, California  3,247, and New Jersey 3,208, up from 2,059, 2,154, and 2,547 respectively. Furthermore, the HHI would rise to 3,299 among contract subscribers and 1,716 among prepaid subscribers.

From the customer’s perspective we’ve gathered in findings of our TUP survey results, the usage profiles of AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers are different enough to show this will not be a simple merger. In fact, some customer usage types are unique enough they were already poised to seek better alternatives due to the way they use mobile wireless devices. That’s in addition to changes they might be considering beyond being triggered by the merger announcement, such as their satisfaction levels with customer service, their reception, or the complexity or costs of their subscription agreements.


The results in this TUPdate are drawn from the MetaFacts Technology User Profile Survey. Results specific to this topic can be obtained through a customized report and analysis. Or contact MetaFacts for the MetaFacts Technology User Profile Overview Edition report, which covers the broader range of key trends. View findings in 25 pages of executive summary analysis, 200+ pages of charts and graphs, all supported by 95+ pages of detailed tables. The complete, 300+ page report is delivered to you electronically. This edition is for the U.S. based on the 2010 wave of Technology User Profile gathered among a scrupulously selected set of representative respondents, surveyed both online and offline.

To see other research coverage of Internet products and activities – from smartphones to feature phones, desktops to notebooks, social networking, demographics, and attitudes – see the many other questions TUP answers on www.technologyuser.com. Tech market research professionals who want a solid resource they can use immediately after industry events such as mergers, or even use prior to anticipated events, can license direct access to TUP.

About TUPdates

MetaFacts releases ongoing research on the market shifts and profiles for Smartphones, Netbooks, Mobile PCs, Workplace PCs, Home PCs, Web Creators, Broadband, and many other technology industry trends and facts. These TUPdates are short analytical articles in a series of specific topics utilizing the Technology User Profile Annual Edition study, which reveals the changing patterns of technology adoption around the world. Interested technology professionals can sign up at http://technologyuser.com/contact/ for complimentary TUPdates – periodic snapshots of technology markets.

About MetaFacts

MetaFacts, Inc. is a market research firm focusing exclusively on the technology industries. MetaFacts’ Technology User Profile (TUP) survey is the longest-running, large-scale comprehensive study of its kind, conducted continuously since 1983, the year before Apple released the Apple Macintosh. The detailed results are a primary market sizing and segmentation resource for leading companies providing consumer-oriented technology products and services, such as PCs, printers, software applications, peripherals, consumer electronics, mobile computing, and related services and products. TUP analyzes key trends and the data-rich source can be dived into more deeply for custom analysis. For more information about the syndicated research service, analysis tools, publications and datasets, contact MetaFacts at 1-760-635-4300.

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Filed under Consumer research, Market Research, Mobile Phones, Technology User Overview Report, TUP 2010