Will AT&T’s Acquisition of T-Mobile Make Mobile Marketing More Effective or More Expensive?

On the heels of Sunday’s unexpected announcement that AT&T is planning to acquire T-Mobile, one of the first questions to surface within the mobile and advertising communities pertained to mobile marketing. Specifically, what impact will the pending AT&T purchase of T-Mobile have on the mobile marketing industry?

“When one competitor has that much buying power they can determine the fate of different products,” Farib Adib, a Sprint executive told Reuters at the International CTIA wireless conference in Orlando, Florida Tuesday evening. Just as likely, however, could be an associated rise in the cost of mobile services, many of which may pertain to mobile marketing.

Such developments would largely come, of course, as an indirect consequence of the AT&T and T-Mobile deal. AT&T, for example, can’t mandate higher costs for use of Apple’s iAd mobile advertising platform. But if the telecomm giant’s purchase of T-Mobile USA packs on an additional 34 million subscribers to AT&T’s already established base of 96 million, AT&T – one of only two US carriers to offer the iPhone – will then have 130 million total potential customers to whom an iPhone can be sold. And as the potential audience for iAd exposure increases, so too does the value of Apple’s iAd – reason alone for Apple to possibly consider jacking the price.

So much uncertainty now hangs over the looming acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T that the worst thoughts imaginable are being widely entertained by many across the mobile landscape. Already this week Sprint CEO Dan Hesse expressed his concerns about AT&T’s plans to CNBC’s Jim Cramer: “If this transaction goes through you’re talking 79 percent, or roughly 80 percent of the market controlled by two companies,” Hesse says. “I think that’s a little too much–too much concentration.”

For now, the greatest tangible concerns sparked by AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile pertain to competition, fairness, and escalating prices for consumers. With regard to mobile marketing, the potential impact is much less clear.  In fact, there may ultimately be very little impact. Earlier this year, the Mobile Marketing Association joined the Association of National Advertisers in providing a conservative estimate that spending on mobile marketing will spike by 59% by the end of this year – a possible development that doesn’t seem poised to be impacted by the AT&T/T-Mobile deal.

At present, mobile marketers should be mindful of new opportunities – not limitations – that could very well emerge from the controversial deal in the making. If, for instance, AT&T and T-Mobile provide a way for both large and small advertisers to more effectively and efficiently reach larger segments of mobile subscribers (through services and platforms provided by third-parties), perhaps reason for today’s apprehension is unwarranted. On the other hand, should the merger result in costlier but less quality services that effectively set the mobile industry back, then perhaps mobile advertisers will have some reason for concern. But we’re not there yet. Not even close.

For the time being, no tremendous upheavals in mobile marketing are planned or anticipated. And until the deal between AT&T and T-Mobile is sanctioned (a process that could take a year or more) there’s little reason to concentrate on anything other than the tremendous growth of mobile marketing and the exciting, rich new opportunities the industry, technologies, and skilled mobile marketers continue to facilitate on a daily basis.