updated 09:49 am EST, Thu January 17, 2013
European acquisition could offer data-focused contracts
American carrier AT&T is looking towards expanding into Europe, according to insiders. The telecommunications giant may be making a bid to buy a mobile phone network, with the likelihood that the company will upgrade older generations of technology and improve the slow rate of 4G rollouts, as well as moving towards more modern pricing structures of contracts.
Current targets for the acquisition operate in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, according to sources of the Wall Street Journal. Recent 4G-based network Everything Everywhere in the UK and Royal KPN in the Netherlands are the most likely targets for AT&T, though company executives are said to be split on the plan.
Some view the international expansion as a marketplace with high handset turnover, full of customers regularly upgrading their smartphones. The fact that most carriers in Europe are holding on to their voice and SMS services for revenue could allow AT&T to push plans based upon data usage, a market that is growing though stalled by the lack of widespread 4G signal, something that AT&T can accelerate the growth of. Reaching out to Europe could also slow AT&T's progress in the US, a market that could be dominated by foreign-owned carriers in the future, such as Sprint being owned by Softbank.
AT&T has been looking towards expanding via acquisition for a while now. In 2011, the carrier attempted to merge with T-Mobile USA, in a buyout valued at $39 billion, though it was blocked after the Department of Justice sued on antitrust grounds. An attempt at buying another carrier, even outside the US, could face similar scrutiny to the failed T-Mobile merger.