AT&T/T-Mobile Deal to Face "Coordinated" Antitrust Review

According to reports citing unnamed sources within the government, AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile faces a "coordinated review" by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ). AT&T announced last month that it intended to purchase T-Mobile for $39 billion and combine the business with AT&T Wireless, creating the nation's largest wireless network.

The FCC and DOJ are apparently coordinating their antitrust investigations of the deal and will work together to arrive at a verdict. FCC guidelines require that agency to decide on any merger within 180 days, though these reviews can often take longer. But sources say that both agencies intend to reach a decision as quickly as is reasonable.

And the nation's antitrust overseers aren't the only hurdle a proposed AT&T/T-Mobile link-up would need to clear: The US Congress will hold hearings about this purchase as well.

Meanwhile, Sprint—which is currently the United States' third largest wireless carrier and would be left in a decided also-ran position should the AT&T deal go through—has been very vocal in its complaints. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said this week that the deal would leave the United States with just two major players, AT&T and Verizon, limiting choice and raising prices for consumers.

"We just cannot let this happen," he said. "If the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger is allowed to go forward, it can also push the wireless industry from competition to duopoly."

"Sprint urges the United States government to block this anti-competitive acquisition," a Sprint spokesperson said, revealing the company's official opinion about the proposed merger of AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile. "This transaction will harm consumers and harm competition at a time when this country can least afford it."

If the deal is consummated, Verizon would see itself dropped from the top position to number two in the United States, but the company is a bit more sanguine about the deal than is Sprint. "We're very, very confident in our position," Verizon Wireless President and CEO Dan Mead said. "We're not going to get distracted by this."

Meanwhile, AT&T has officially addressed doubters in a blog post in which it notes that the T-Mobile link-up will seem like a small thing compared with the coming infrastructure improvement needs that this country will soon face. "While this deal will mean better service, fewer dropped calls, and a more robust and ubiquitous wireless broadband infrastructure," AT&T Vice President Joan Marsh wrote, "I can't emphasize enough that this deal does not solve the longer-term wireless broadband spectrum shortage faced by the industry ... Current spectrum assets alone will not always be sufficient to accommodate the industry-wide tidal wave of mobile data traffic on the horizon. On that score, the industry's work has only just begun."
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