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FCC to review AT&T's T-Mobile and Qualcomm deals together

The regulatory agency reportedly says the proposed deals raise questions about AT&T's aim to control spectrum throughout the country.

The Federal Communications Commission said today that it will take a "coordinated" look at AT&T's proposed acquisition of both T-Mobile USA and spectrum controlled by Qualcomm.


TechCrunch reported that the FCC had informed AT&T that the reviews would be done together, which would put the telecommunications giant in the position of justifying the acquisition of such a large amount of wireless spectrum.

"The commission's ongoing review has confirmed that the proposed transactions raise a number of related issues, including, but not limited to, questions regarding AT&T's aggregation of spectrum throughout the nation, particularly in overlapping areas," the FCC said in letters to both AT&T and Qualcomm.

AT&T, however, maintains that the two deals should be looked at separately, and noted that the FCC has kept the option open to approve the Qualcomm deal first.

"We believe the Qualcomm transaction stands on its own merits," said an AT&T representative.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, said it believes the deal should be approved as soon as possible

"The FCC should approve the pending AT&T-Qualcomm spectrum sale now because of the clear benefits to the public from the sale that stand on their own and are totally unrelated to the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger," said Dean Brenner, vice president of government affairs.

One of the primary reasons AT&T said it is acquiring T-Mobile is the need for more wireless spectrum, which would help the company expand its upcoming 4G LTE network.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, has a swath of spectrum that is compatible with what AT&T purchased during the last major spectrum auction. Qualcomm had intended to use that spectrum to power a mobile-TV business, but was forced to shutter it due to minimal demand. AT&T in December announced plans to acquire that spectrum from Qualcomm for $1.925 billion.

Related stories:
• AT&T and T-Mobile: Wireless megamerger
• AT&T gets merger support from key lawmaker
• AT&T offers more data to FCC for T-Mobile deal
• AT&T customers try to block merger with T-Mobile

The FCC is still working through the process of reviewing the T-Mobile acquisition, which has drawn supporters and sharp critics alike. Free Press, media watchdog group opposed to the deal, today praised the FCC decision to combine the review process, noting the large market share AT&T already controls.

Updated at 10 a.m. PT: to include comments from AT&T and Qualcomm.