AT&T wants Europe, eyes Vodafone as the way in

AT&T appears to be looking longingly, hungrily across the Atlantic at Vodafone, and it has acquisition in its eyes. It's no secret AT&T wants to expand into Europe. They're already one of the biggest carriers in the U.S., and there's never enough customers nor money in the world, is there? Mark Kleinman has the latest on Sky News:

Sky News has learnt that Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chairman and chief executive, met the EU Telecoms Commissioner Neelie Kroes at the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss his ambition to become a major player in the European market.

Insiders said that Mr Stephenson and Ms Kroes discussed a number of issues including the Commission's receptiveness to a potential takeover bid for a major European operator such as Vodafone.

International carrier deals aren't anything new. Deutsche Telekom owns T-Mobile in the U.S. and Japan's SoftBank owns a huge swath of Sprint. Vodafone itself, until last year, owned a stake in Verizon. So, yeah, complicated.

Vodafone would give AT&T access not only to the U.K., but Germany, Italy, Spain, and other markets. If it doesn't work out, EE is said to be an alternative. It's unclear what, if anything, this would mean to existing customers. Historically better roaming rates, for example, haven't been easy to come by. Either way, anyone on AT&T or Vodafone rushing to get into bed together, acquisition-ally speaking?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

AT&T wants Europe, eyes Vodafone as the way in


Yet, an investor would be looking at this as an opportunity to be had or an opportunity lost if not looked into.

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Voda would be a solid choice as they own all the back end pipes as well. EE would be like walking into the Willy Wonka factory and walking out with Milky Way, functional but some how feel you could have had more

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Vodafone are huge, but they're a toxic brand here in the UK. They were caught evading taxes a few years back, and in an epic way, but somehow managed to wriggle out of ever paying what they owed, and no-one went to prison over it. Since then, Vodafone has been synonymous with tax evasion and bad business practices.

Then again, I never hear anything positive about AT&T, so maybe they're a perfect match.

The best carrier in the UK by a very long way is Three. They're not only one of the cheapest (£13 a month for unlimited data), but they're also rapidly expanding their free roaming program. Already we can roam for free with unlimited data in a bunch of EU countries, and some others too, such as Hong Kong and the USA.

Nearly the same goes for germany.. Vodafone is known for bad customer service. But the network is pretty good, just t-mobile has a better one.

We don't want no stinking $85 a month, locked in for ages, pay extra for tethering style tariffs, thank you very much.

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That's a good point. Phone contracts or enormously more expensive in the US than the UK. AT&T couldn't bring their crazy ripp off pricing here or they'd be laughed out of town.

The £13 a month I pay Three for uncapped data is the highest I'll go.

Vodafone is my work's choice of network. The coverage is poor and I much prefer either O2 or EE for my own iPhone.

I'm guessing its a way to stop better variants of the same phone from hitting the market IE nokia lumia 1520 so people cant say the international version is better :)

Based on today's market caps and exchange rates, Vodafone has a market cap of $176.71 billion, while AT&T have a market cap of $176.06 billion. I could see them merging, but it seems unlikely that AT&T would be able to buy Vodafone out. Vodafone's reasoning for selling their shares in Verizon was so they could concentrate on their core European business, which makes it sound unlikely that they'd be interested in partnering with a US carrier.

Should be interest to see how these carriers begin to make moves to grow their business.

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