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AT&T antitrust case gets February trial date

The big (and, eventually perhaps, bigger) carrier is going to have to wait considerably longer now for a decision on whether it can acquire T-Mobile.

Those last-ditch efforts that AT&T reportedly attempted in order to save its proposed bid for T-Mobile don't look to have paid off.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle has assigned a February 13 start date for a nonjury trial to decide whether AT&T's proposed merger with T-Mobile, which would make AT&T the largest nationwide carrier, would violate antitrust laws.

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against AT&T at the end of August with the purpose of blocking the merger, as the DOJ reasoned that such a behemoth of a company would "substantially lessen competition" in the industry, therefore violating U.S. antitrust laws.

The federal judge has blocked off at least six weeks for the trial to run its course, although it looks as though both parties don't think it will take that long. AT&T and T-Mobile were also hoping for an earlier trial start date of January 16. The February date puts the trial just under a year from when AT&T first announced its intentions to buy T-Mobile.

Originally, a decision from the Federal Communications Commission over the merger was expected this fall. Up until August, it looked as though AT&T had secure backing as many Silicon Valley giants penned letters in favor the deal, while Sprint and regional carriers were the lone opponents.

And although a group of House Democrats recently attempted to sway the president's favor to settle the merger, AT&T is now being bombarded by suits from state attorneys general and competitors, including Sprint and now Cellular South just this week.

However, the FCC admitted that the DOJ's arguments warranted attention as they brought to light some more concerning potential after-effects. This now-uphill battle for AT&T continues.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Judge sets trial date for AT&T antitrust lawsuit next February."