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FCC report remains neutral on wireless competition

The annual report on the state of the wireless industry reveals few clues about how the FCC sees a merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.

A new FCC report has found that the wireless phone market is growing more concentrated, but it did not leave any clues as to how the agency might rule on an AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

It's the second year in a row that the Federal Communications Commission has said the industry is "concentrated." But it did not say whether it finds the industry to be competitive. Last year the FCC reversed years of findings that the market was considered to be competitive.

The annual report released yesterday contained data gleaned from the wireless industry from 2009 and part of 2010.

The report did not reveal much about how the commission might stand on allowing two of the largest wireless operators in the U.S. to combine. The FCC did find that the four major U.S. wireless operators had 90 percent of U.S. subscribers, with AT&T and Verizon grabbing 62 percent. It then noted that "a merger can potentially form a stronger provider that restrains competitors from engaging in anticompetitive behavior, or may increase the likelihood that the merged firm may itself, or in coordination with other firms, would obtain or maintain market power."

The FCC concluded that total revenue generated by the wireless industry in 2009 was $154.7 billion and had been "growing consistently."