Sprint asks FCC to block AT&T, T-Mobile merger

In an official filing before the Federal Communications Commission, Sprint claims that the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile has "no public interest."

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read

Sprint today formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to block AT&T's $39 billion bid to acquire T-Mobile USA on the grounds that it has "no public interest." The "Petition to Deny" request was filed in Washington D.C. on behalf of Vonya B. McCann, Sprint's senior vice president for government affairs, and other carrier execs.

In the 377-page petition (PDF), Sprint argues that the proposed merger would harm competition and consumers by leading to higher prices and poorer service in the wireless industry, impact America's economic growth, and stifle innovation by creating a duopoly between Verizon Wireless and AT&T, the nation's largest and second-largest carriers respectively.

"The Commission faces a stark choice in this proceeding," the petition says. "It can reject AT&T's bid to take over T-Mobile and extend the last two decades of robust competition in the wireless industry...or the Commission can approve the takeover and let the wireless industry regress inexorably toward a 1980s-style duopoly."

In its own FCC filing last month, AT&T said the merger would not decrease competition and that the marriage is necessary for it to acquire the needed spectrum to roll out a national 4G LTE network. Sprint, however, counters that AT&T's competition clams are "without merit" and the carrier already has ample spectrum to deploy LTE, but has under-invested in its network instead.

"AT&T, even without the transaction, holds more licensed spectrum than any other carrier," the petition said. "AT&T is better positioned to meet consumer demand for mobile broadband services than any of its competitors provided it undertakes the same smart network management practices and network investment the rest of the industry has pursued."

Though the FCC has yet to issue any opinions on the merger, it has established procedural rules for the review process and is allowing the public to weigh in. Congress also has held hearings, though it has no power to approve or deny the acquisition.

From almost the moment AT&T announced its bid on March 20, Sprint, the nation's third-largest carrier, has forcefully opposed the deal. It has asked state utility agencies to scrutinize the merger, and CEO Dan Hesse has spoken out against it before Congress, at the CTIA trade show last March, and an April 15 press conference in San Francisco.