What's Ahead For Deutsche Telekom
"Embattled boss" (European Edition Cover Story, Dec. 4) on Deutsche Telekom's Ron Sommer shows one thing: In today's fierce market, the leader of a onetime monopoly has to switch to "startup" thinking and must look more seriously to differentiate the company from the competition. Instead of taking the forces head-on, Deutsche Telekom should strike with services that no others offer, especially those appealing to the wireless world. Ron, remember your Israeli roots, and this kind of thinking will come back to you.
The VoiceStream acquisition by Deutsche Telekom is one of Sommer's masterpieces, bridging mobile Europe and the Americas. It combines different corporate and industry cultures, bringing Europe and the New World closer together. This is a step in the right direction and supports world trade and globalization. It is the continuation of market convergence by loosening the boundaries of continents.
A lot of traditional investors and AT&T shareholders in the Old World haven't understood those dimensions of the deal and their consequences for European and American business in the future. But now comes the hard part: merging and forging a transatlantic corporation--a big challenge for management and boards on both sides of the ocean. It is distinct from the DaimlerChrysler deal: There is no comparison in strategy or concept.
Some questions remain: In the first transatlantic network, will we have the European system (with UMTS, "always on" third-generation mobiles, whereby customers are charged only for transported content) or the American setup (with its second-generation mobiles and time-access-fee)? Will European travelers lose their UMTS-multimedia content on the DT-VoiceStream network in the U.S.? Solving that "technology-break" problem could mean further huge investments for DT-VoiceStream.
Paul J. Sparwasser