FCC to review AT&T deals with T-Mobile and Qualcomm together


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AT&T’s proposed deal to take over T-Mobile USA and gobble up wireless licenses from Qualcomm Inc. will be bundled together and reviewed as a pair by the Federal Communications Commission.

The decision will almost certainly end up delaying the potential closing of the $1.9-billion deal between Qualcomm and AT&T, which if cleared would give AT&T control over licenses that, according to the FCC, ‘cover more than 300 million people nationwide, including more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco).’


AT&T and Qualcomm were hoping to get their proposed deal approved by federal regulators and closed before the end of the year, Reuters said in a report on the FCC decision. The AT&T bid to buy T-Mobile USA, which is worth $39 billion, isn’t expected to close until sometime in the first three months of next year at the earliest, the report said.

The FCC announced that it would review the two deals together in a letter sent to the companies late Monday, Reuters said.

Qualcomm said the FCC shouldn’t delay approving its deal with AT&T because it isn’t using the wireless spectrum that it’s looking to sell to the telecommunications giant and the cash would allow the company to invest in what it said would be improved wireless technologies.

‘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,’ Dean Brenner, Qualcomm’s vice president of government affairs, told Reuters.

AT&T officials weren’t available to comment on the setback. The FCC, however, said it made the decision to give it more time to scrutinize the effect the sale would have on how much wireless spectrum AT&T would own.

‘We have concluded that the best way to determine whether either or both of the proposed transactions serve the public interest is to consider them in a coordinated manner at this time,’ the FCC said in its letter, according to Reuters.

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


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Oct. 19, 2009. Credit: Lisa Poole/ Associated Press