AT&T Sees Slow 4G Rollout In Europe As An Opportunity For Expansion

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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AT&T drops its strongest hint yet that it wants to expand into Europe

AT&T continues to weigh up a takeover for a major European operator, with its CEO Randall Stephenson claiming the market conditions and slow rollout of 4G on the continent represent a huge opportunity for investment.

The US operator has previously hinted at European expansion, and has been linked with rumoured purchase of Telefonica, EE and speculation regarding a bid for Vodafone is increasing now it has sold its stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion.

AT&T has apparently debated entering the European market for the last decade, but now believes that conditions are more favourable for expansion than those in the US.

AT&T European expansion

AT&T DallasFierce competition and the economic problems in Europe have affected operators’ share prices, while companies have been slow to roll out 4G networks. Revenues are still largely dependent on voice and text services and AT&T believes that there is a chance to get a head start on shifting customers onto lucrative data-based pricing schemes that are common in the US.

In contrast, the majority of smartphone users in the US are already on these contracts, raising fears of market saturation.

However, according to The Times, Stephenson says regulatory changes would be needed if the European market was to come out of its slump and has called for longer spectrum licences to increase investor confidence. Vodafone has attributed much of its recent struggle in southern Europe to regulations that limit how much it can charge for certain services.

Stephenson is throwing his weight behind EU proposals to harmonise spectrum allocation and says it would make it easier to break into different European markets.

AT&T’s desire to expand into Europe could be fuelled by its 2011 failure to acquire T-Mobile USA for £25 billion due to regulatory concerns from the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice.

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