T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) is becoming billionaire bait even though it’s the smallest national competitor in a market where the vast majority of the population already has a mobile phone.
What’s luring France’s Xavier Niel and Japan’s Masayoshi Son to bid on T-Mobile is a chance to get into the $195 billion U.S. industry before a new surge in demand for data services such as Internet access and video streaming. It’s the same rationale Verizon Communications Inc. used to justify its $130 billion deal to acquire full control of Verizon Wireless earlier this year. Data sales are already climbing 18 percent this year, according to analyst Chetan Sharma.
The bet is that wireless data will move beyond phones and tablets to a number of other devices, from cars to smartwatches to thermostats -- all requiring a way to connect to the Internet for updates and monitoring. If that vision comes true, there could be a gold mine in owning one of the few networks capable of handling that demand in the gadget-hungry U.S., where people have proved willing to pay steadily for wireless service even as spending drops elsewhere.