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FCC restarts clock on review of merger between AT&T, T-Mobile

The agency says it has received the additional information it sought from the wireless carriers.

August 27, 2011|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

The Federal Communications Commission has restarted its 180-day clock for its review of AT&T's proposed $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA.

The FCC had paused the clock on July 20 after asking the two companies for more information about how, in their view, the efficiencies of the combined carriers would outweigh the potential anticompetitive effects, according to a statement on the agency's website by Rick Kaplan, chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

Now that AT&T and T-Mobile have delivered what the FCC requested, the agency said Friday it was again scrutinizing the potential takeover. It originally began its 180-day clock in April.

The delay was the latest setback for AT&T, the nation's second-largest wireless carrier, in its push to consume the fourth-largest carrier, T-Mobile.

AT&T has argued that buying T-Mobile will enable it to meet the increasing demand for high-speed wireless service. T-Mobile argued that, if left on its own, it might be unable to compete not only with AT&T, but also the other major carriers, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel.

Consumer rights groups have come out against the merger, saying it would make the wireless market less competitive and result in higher prices. And one of the most vocal opponents has been Sprint, the No. 3 carrier.

The FCC is reviewing the deal together with a proposed $1.9-billion agreement between Qualcomm and AT&T that, if approved , would give AT&T control over licenses to a wireless spectrum used by 300 million people nationwide.

The Justice Department is looking into possible antitrust concerns over the proposed AT&T merger with T-Mobile as well.

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