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AT&T Wireless awaits prom call from Vodafone

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Investors in AT&T Wireless, which has officially confirmed that it is up for auction, are anxious to see a bidding war develop for the giant US carrier, as the Friday 13 deadline for bids approaches. But so far, Cingular remains the er, singular suitor for the $30 billion carrier.

Deutsche Telekom, which operates in the US market as T-Mobile, Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo are thought to be the most likely rivals to Cingular, but each has good reason to stay its hand. Debt-laden Deutsche Telekom is still counting the cost of its acquisition spree during the dot.com bubble. Vodafone meanwhile owns 45 per cent of Verizon Wireless, and Verizon is committed to CDMA for the long run: so there are few economies of scale likely from technical consolidation, and a lot of potential integration headaches. Japan's vertically-integrated Phonezilla NTT DoCoMo already owns a 16 per cent stake in AT&T Wireless, which brands its data services mMode. DoCoMo announced profits (net income) of $4.68 billion for the most recent nine-month period, although it faces a tough fight at home in Japan.

Verizon could buy its way out of the deal with Vodafone, with Vodafone's stake worth some $23 bilLion. Verizon has a coherent network vision that stands in good stead for any disruptive shifts in the market, such as VoIP.

On Monday, Vodafone was reported to be working on its bid, but the phone still hasn't rung. Who's going to take a gal to the prom? ®

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