AT&T’s announcement that it plans to sell its wireless and wireline operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Liberty Latin America drew reactions from members of the industry, including its main competitor T-Mobile.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who is known for his outspokenness and for taunting his competitors, took to his Twitter account to react to the announcement.
“Way to abandon people, @ATT!! @TMobile is FULLY committed to Puerto Rico! Our 600 MHz is on pace to blanket the island and our network is stronger there than ever before. We aren’t going anywhere! #TMobile4PR,” he said.
The transaction worth $1.95 billion includes the carrier’s network assets in Puerto Rico, including spectrum; real estate and leases; customers, including 1.1 million wireless subscribers; and contracts.
When the transaction closes in the second quarter of 2020, approximately 1,300 current AT&T employees will move to Liberty Latin America, AT&T said in a statement.
“Unlike others, T-Mobile’s commitment to Puerto Rico is unwavering. We have 20% more towers with greater capacity and 600MHz LTE signal,” said Jorge Martel, general manager of T-Mobile in Puerto Rico.
“Our network is better, stronger and more resilient, and provides more coverage than before. We continue to build our 600MHz network quickly across the island,” he said.
“We have added about 100 jobs over the past two years. We continue to expand our customer service presence based in Puerto Rico, and we’re extremely proud of the results of our high-quality service,” Martel said.
T-Mobile is currently awaiting for the approval of its own proposed merger with Sprint, which would likely also have an effect on Puerto Rico’s telecom landscape.
The transaction is subject to review by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. The two companies expect the deal to close within six to nine months.
Locally, Sandra Torres, president of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Bureau, said the agency will “ensure the transparency of the processes and the quality of services that customers expect.”
“The telecom market is a changing and competitive one, not only in Puerto Rico, but worldwide. These changes should result in more competition and better offers for consumers,” she said.
The Bureau known as NET for its initials in Spanish “will have the opportunity to express our opinion regarding how the market is on the island and the quality of services to customers, before the federal regulatory agency during the acquisition process,” said Torres.
Meanwhile, AT&T said the sale does not affect its commitment to the FirstNet network. Among other services, post-close, Liberty Latin America will support AT&T’s FirstNet build in Puerto Rico and the USVI, expanding LTE coverage and capacity to best meet the needs of first responders in the region.
Eligible first responders subscribing to AT&T’s FirstNet services in Puerto Rico and the USVI will still have access to the benefits and capabilities of the FirstNet network platform, including priority and preemption, the carrier said.
“The combination of AT&T’s leading mobile and wired businesses with Liberty Puerto Rico’s leading high-speed broadband and TV business will create a strong and competitive integrated communications player,” said Balan Nair, president of Liberty Latin America.
“At Liberty Latin America, we are focused on investing in digital infrastructure, innovation and 5G networks and on delivering a friendly customer service experience. This transaction is evidence of that, and we are confident that this new combination will be good for our customers and our employees, including those joining us from AT&T,” he said.