The FCC has decided to review AT&T's proposed acquisitions with T-Mobile and Qualcomm at the same time.
AT&T is currently pursuing a $1.9 billion deal to acquire some of Qualcomm's numerous wireless licenses, as well as a separate $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile. Late on Monday, the Federal Communications Commission sent a letter announcing that the agency had decided to pair both deals. ""We have concluded that the best way to determine whether either or both of the proposed transactions serve the public interest is to consider them in a coordinated manner at this time," stated the FCC.
The much smaller Qualcomm deal was expected to be decided upon well before the government had considered the more controversial anti-trust elements of the proposed T-Mobile purchase from Deutsche Telekom AG. The initial application had been accepted on February 9th, and the FCC's informal 180-day timeline was stopped late on Monday.
Qualcomm's Vice President of Government Affairs expressed his company's dissatisfaction with the decision. "The FCC should approve the pending AT&T-Qualcomm spectrum sale now because of the clear benefits to the public from the sale that stand on their own and are totally unrelated to the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger," stated Dean Brenner.
The T-Mobile deal is expected by many to continue well into 2012, with the antitrust review being conducted at the same time by the Department of Justice. Opponents such as competitor Sprint Nextel argue that competition would suffer as the resulting market would too closely resemble a duopoly, with the two largest companies (the larger AT&T and Verizon) holding 80% of the territory.
Both deals hinge on AT&T's stated needs for more spectrum, resulting mainly from increased demand from smartphones and other mobile Internet devices. AT&T also argues that an increased access to airwaves will assist expansion into under-served areas such as rural communities, and that the government is not moving fast enough to provide solutions for either issue.
Meanwhile. the FCC on Tuesday voted to free up 650mhz of spectrum from 'wireless backhaul', which Chairman Julius Genachowski says will speed up next-generation 4G networks and further increase rural broadband penetration.
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