AT&T pushes back target date for T-Mobile buy

Thanks to the Justice Department lawsuit and increased regulatory scrutiny, AT&T now expects the deal to close in the first half of next year.

The regulatory scrutiny is starting to get to AT&T and its bid to acquire T-Mobile USA.

AT&T disclosed in its quarterly regulatory filing that it now expects the deal to close in the first half of 2012, compared with its previous target of the first quarter. The Dow Jones Newswires was the first to report the change.

The regulatory scrutiny has also caused it to push back the target date for its acquisition of spectrum from Qualcomm. AT&T now expects that deal to close in the first quarter of 2012, rather than the end of the year. The companies are waiting for approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T has been under increasing pressure to demonstrate why an acquisition of T-Mobile would benefit consumers. The Justice Department sued to block the deal, citing concern for innovation in the wireless industry and the risk of increased prices. Sprint Nextel and regional carrier C Spire (formerly Cellular South) have also piggybacked atop the Justice Department with their own lawsuits challenging the deal.

AT&T, meanwhile, maintains the deal is critical to its ability to secure necessary spectrum to handle growing traffic. The company also argues that the deal will not affect prices and will actually create jobs. In responding to the Justice Department lawsuit, AT&T has said that T-Mobile doesn't pose a competitive risk, so a deal wouldn't affect the market.

While technology companies, the unions, and several states have supported the deal, other state attorneys general, consumer groups, and wireless players have expressed concerns over such a merger, which would create the nation's largest wireless provider.

A federal judge on Wednesday allowed Sprint and C Spire to pursue their lawsuits against AT&T, though she threw out some components of the complaint.