The federal judge overseeing the U.S. Justice Department's effort to bar AT&T's $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA handed rival Sprint-Nextel a major defeat.
Judge Ellen S. Huvelle Monday barred open access by Sprint, the No. 3 wireless carrier, to all the documentation collected by the Justice Department in its lawsuit. AT&T is the No. 1 carrier while T-Mobile is No. 4.
I don't see it as efficient or fair, Huvelle said in court late Monday, services reported. If the Justice Department has need for specific documents, that can ne arranged.
The judge said the government can share some of the data it collected about AT&T but not all of it.
Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kan., separately is seeking to bar the AT&T-T-Mobile merger. Sprint lawyer Steven Sunshine argued the deal would tip the market toward duopoly, but Judge Huvelle asked how that might hurt Sprint, which just won the right to offer Apple's iPhone 4S.
Sunshine said Sprint worries about AT&T's continued size and bargaining power over handsets, Bloomberg reported, as well as to compete in a market that would be dominated by a bigger AT&T and Verizon Wireless, leaving Sprint as a much smaller No. 3.
T-Mobile, based in Bellevue, Wash., is owned now by Deutsche Telekom, which wants to exit the U.S. market. An attraction is that the T-Mobile network has more 4G and broadband capacity desired by Dallas-based AT&T.
Huvelle, meanwhile, didn't rule on an AT&T bid to dismiss suits brought by Sprint and private Cellular South, now known as C Spire Wireless. She set Nov. 30 for the next hearing in the case.
Sprint shares were trading at $2.62 midday Tuesday, down 2.4 percent, while AT&T shares were at $28.50, down 1.3 percent.