AT&T CEO: Post-merger world will be 'competitive'

Randall Stephenson says an AT&T/T-Mobile merger won't squelch the telecom market: "The industry is intensely competitive now, and will be intensely competitive after the deal."

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has a message for those who believe his company's acquisition of T-Mobile USA will steam-roll competition in the mobile marketplace.

"This industry is anything but a duopoly," Stephenson said yesterday at a conference hosted by the Council On Foreign Relations, according to The Wall Street Journa. "The industry is intensely competitive now, and will be intensely competitive after the deal."

Since AT&T announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA earlier this month in a deal valued at $39 billion, critics have focused on how the acquisition would impact the U.S. wireless industry. Sprint, arguably the company with the most to lose if AT&T and T-Mobile USA combine, has been especially outspoken about the trouble that may lie ahead.

"Sprint urges the United States government to block this anticompetitive acquisition," the company said in a statement this week. "This transaction will harm consumers and harm competition at a time when this country can least afford it. As the first national carrier to roll out 4G services and handsets and the carrier that brought simple unlimited pricing to the marketplace, Sprint stands ready to compete in a truly dynamic marketplace." Sprint added that it "will fight this attempt by AT&T to undo the progress of the past 25 years and create a new Ma Bell duopoly."

Sprint isn't alone. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said this week that his office will launch a " thorough review " of the acquisition. He's especially concerned that the market would become a "near duopoly shared by the merged firm and Verizon." He's also predicted that the acquisition will cause "cell phone prices to rise."

For its part, AT&T says such concerns are overblown. Although the company hasn't said how it will handle pricing post-merger, Stephenson said yesterday that instituting price controls on the combined firm wouldn't be "relevant."

Stephenson will soon be able to state his case officially as AT&T starts making its way through the long and sure-to-be arduous regulatory approval process.

 

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