OAKLAND — It’s unclear what impact, if any, there will be on the town’s T-Mobile call center under the pending $39 billion sale of the nationwide wireless carrier to AT&T.

Located at the rear of Oakland’s sprawling FirstPark complex, the T-Mobile call center has been there for six years and has about 700 employees.

State Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, said what gives him “pause” is that AT&T does not operate any call centers in Maine.

“I don’t think there’s any cause for alarm,” Beck said Monday. “I think we should monitor the situation closely.”

Dan DiGirolamo, director of customer service and sales at the T-Mobile call center, said Monday he didn’t know whether the sale will affect the center and that he hadn’t received any information from the company. He referred questions to T-Mobile USA’s national media hotline, which did not return a call seeking comment.

DiGirolamo said some customers had contacted the call center, asking about the acquisition.

“I think everybody saw the announcement and people are curious,” DiGirolamo said.

DiGirolamo said the call center has between 650 and 700 employees, depending on call volumes during the year, and most are full-time employees. Since the center opened in 2005, it has “grown to capacity,” but is “always hiring,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the sale would enable the cell phone carriers to make an estimated $40 billion in cost cuts, which would “probably involve thousands of job losses.” AT&T has 267,000 employees and T-Mobile USA has about 38,000.

Kate MacKinnon, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said Monday that it’s “premature” to know whether the T-Mobile call center would be affected by the sale. She confirmed that AT&T does not currently operate call centers in Maine.

MacKinnon declined to comment directly on potential job losses, saying only that “this deal will make T-Mobile a USA-based company.” T-Mobile USA is owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, Germany’s largest phone company.

“Bringing them home to the USA will only spur investment in job growth,” MacKinnon said.
Beck said he spoke with an AT&T representative Monday and “he immediately said there is no information about the effect, if any at all, on T-Mobile’s call center operations at FirstPark.”

“He said that he assumed that many officials in Maine would have questions, and thus the issue has been pushed to high levels at AT&T,” Beck said. “He said he would always keep us informed, and wanted to stress that there is simply nothing to report.”

T-Mobile’s call center is among the area’s largest employers. A published report in 2009 said the call center’s full-time workers started at $11.60 an hour, with benefits.

T-Mobile USA Inc. announced in November 2004 that it would invest $17 million to locate a call center at the rear of the regional business park. Company officials said at the time that the Maine location “was in fierce competition” with competitors in Missouri and Montana, among other states.

T-Mobile officials had concerns about the size of the population of central Maine, but the company eventually decided it would have “no problem filling the jobs” and cited the “warm reception” the company received from then-Gov. John Baldacci and Maine’s top economic development officials.

The company staffs the 78,000-square-foot center from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, according to a published report, with employees fielding customers’ questions about billing, the use of cell phones and more. Its payroll, in 2009, was listed as nearly $25 million.

In a statement, AT&T said it would spend an additional $8 billion to expand “ultrafast” wireless broadband into rural areas. AT&T said the acquisition would allow it to expand its 4G LTE network to 95 percent of the U.S. population.

MacKinnon, the AT&T spokeswoman, said the company’s wireless network in Maine “will greatly benefit from this acquisition.”

“It’s a pretty dramatic benefit for Maine in our ability to bring the most advanced 4G LTE network specifically to rural, smaller communities,” MacKinnon said.

But changes will have to wait at least a year. According to its website, T-Mobile on Monday said the companies would continue to operate independently until the deal is final. Service and billing would remain the same, T-Mobile’s website said, and its phones would still operate in the future.