Sprint T-Mobile merger will change the USA mobile landscape

Competition between the top four USA mobile phone companies ramped up a level as Sprint agrees to purchase T-Mobile USA. If the merger is finalized and passes regulatory barriers it creates a three way battle with AT&T and Verizon for largest mobile carrier in the USA. The current subscriber numbers according to industry sources are AT&T with 102 million subscribers, narrowly behind Verizon Wireless with 103 million subscribers. The combined T-Mobile and Sprint subscriber base will be over 85 million – not quite in the same league as the other two players but certainly a new market force. The rest of the USA market is held by a number of smaller players such at US Cellular with less than 5 million subscribers.

In comparison the UK market has a spread of four main carriers with 80 million customers, Australia has three main carriers with 30 million customers. This number of three to four primary carriers is evident in many markets, including very small markets like New Zealand with three main carriers for approximately 5 million subscribers.

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There is a huge discrepancy in advertising spending between mobile and print.

Business Insider has pointed out the very large discrepancy between time spent browsing news on a mobile phone and the advertising revenue earned when compared to print. As Tonay Danova points out:

Mobile is the only medium in which consumer time spent grew between 2012 and 2013.
Meanwhile, mobile’s share of total ad spend ticked up only slightly, barely growing from a 3% share to a 4% share in 2013.
There is a huge discrepancy between print and mobile — time spent by people consuming print is four times less than time spent with mobile, while print ad spend is nearly five times greater than mobile ad spend. Print ad spend declined dramatically between 2012 and 2013 but remains far over-indexed compared to the little amount of time consumers spend on it.

What this means is being actively debated. What is agreed is that it represents a major problem for media. Mobile is killing the print advertising revenue stream, but not replacing it with anything. Media have limited choices. Either improve advertising revenues from mobile, or create new direct revenue streams from the audience. It is agreed by most commentators, such as Mary Meeker, that this creates enormous opportunity. What is not so clear is how large the opportunity is, and what form it will take.