Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mobile match made in heaven?

It has been announced that T Mobile and Orange are to merge to become the largest mobile phone company in the UK. It is being touted that this will enable them to slash their operating costs, and create huge benefits to their customers, albeit with, as yet, unknown numbers of job losses to their staff.

While it is true that merging will enable them to make certain cutbacks, i can’t see that they will be able to make quite the savings that are being predicted. Of course, they will only need one accounts department, one call centre etc, BUT they cannot possibly cut back on the number of masts and transmitters as is being talked about in the media without having a dramatic negative effect to their customers.

Let’s say for argument that they each currently have 5 million users (they both actually have a lot more than this, but these numbers make for easy calculations), so between them they have 10 million users, and currently have enough capacity for them. If they rip down half their masts and transmitters, they will now only have enough capacity for HALF of their users - how does that benefit people? It is also being said that as each company has slightly different coverage, the merger will give users better coverage than they have now - so how can they even be thinking of taking down masts?

Secondly, most masts carry more than one transmitter, with companies sharing the masts/locations, so any of these shared masts cannot be removed without adversely effecting customers of other networks.

Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, the two networks use vastly different frequencies. Orange uses channels of about double the frequency of T Mobile - without wanting to get too technical, they are simply not compatible with one another. This would mean that for the merger to actually benefit all their customers, they would have to decide which of the two sets of frequencies to use - change all the other transmitters to this band ( a VERY expensive exercise, which would also reduce their user capacity) and set up all of the users of the obsolete frequencies with new phones. Utter madness.

Maybe i am missing something, and i certainly don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but what i do know about the mobile phone system leads me to believe that it really is not going to be a simple matter for the two company to merge and save themselves anything like the sums that are being talked about. I just hope that someone at their head offices has thought this through properly.

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