Sprint Attempts to Stonewall AT&T and T-Mobile Deal

The third place mobile company says the merger won't add value to consumers

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Sprint is not interesting in taking on an even more powerful competitor in the battle over mobile market share. The company formally filed a petition with the Federal Communication Commission to block AT&T's ultra-huge bid to acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion. This, after Sprint verbally complained to the FCC about the muscular move, claiming that AT&T's purchase would "would entrench the duopoly" meaning "the rest of the carriers in the U.S. market would be small in comparison." The formal complaint uses the same language to describe how the telecommunications industry would be backpedaling in approving such a large merger. Sprint said of AT&T and Verizon, "The Twin Bells' market dominance would dwarf Sprint, the sole remaining national carrier, and the rest of the wireless industry, thereby creating an entrenched, anti-competitive duopoly."

At 377 pages, Sprint's complaint document is both thorough and impassioned. Highlights include a section called "Alice in Wonderland"--note the imagery for the the "small in comparison" statement!--which undermines AT&T's argument for fairness citing "dire capacity constraints" in its application to the FCC. AT&T's CEO earlier this year boasted that they're "really starting to feel good about the network situation."

Ultimately, Spring says if AT&T isn't flat out lying about its network limitations, it's at least being really being really dumb about using what it does have. Which is a lot:

Even without the proposed transaction, AT&T has the largest licensed spectrum holdings of any wireless  carrier. AT&T also is the largest holder of unused spectrum….AT&T could use this reserve of spectrum to improve service for its customers, but has chosen instead to warehouse it for future services ... If AT&T has capacity constraints, they are the result of its failure to upgrade and invest in its network.

AT&T's response so far has been predictably even-tempered. "Strong support for the AT&T-T-Mobile merger has been voiced by dozens of community, civic and minority organizations, 13 governors, multiple labor unions and several members of Congress, [and] we anticipate additional support, Michael Balmoris, an AT&T spokesman, told Bloomberg. The Communications Workers of America also told the FCC that approving the merger would create nearly 100,000 jobs and improve wireless internet service for everyone.

The review process for AT&T's acquisition application will probably take a year so we expect more verbal and bureaucratic jousting. In the meantime, any bets on which FCC commissioner is polishing a resume to swing through the revolving door and join AT&T's lobbying team after the deal is done?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.