In a conference held just moments ago the FCC discussed the steps it would take to evaluate the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile acquisition. Paperwork has been filed by the FCC and the real fun begins for AT&T and T-Mobile to submit their own documentation which will be done under strict confidentiality.
According to todays call the FCC and DOJ will conduct a parallel review of the deal not unlike the approval process performed for the Comcast/NBC acquisition. In order to properly evaluate the deal, the FCC will take into consideration their own spectrum plans, affects of the merger for the competition in the short and long term and how or if the merger might advance technology.
Moreover, the FCC said that it will consider competition heavily and examine the number of carriers left and the portions of the market each of those carriers will control. The FCC will also perform a market-by-market spectrum analysis.
However, the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski has hinted albeit indirectly that he believes the state of the wireless market in the US would not be as “rosy” as AT&T suggests it would be post T-Mobile acquisition. Speaking to the Washington Post, Genachowski pointed to an FCC report from last May which indicated:
“There appears to be increasing concentration in the mobile wireless market. One widely-used measure of industry concentration indicates that concentration has increased 32 percent since 2003 and 6.5 percent in 2008.”
While AT&T has argued that a market-by-market analysis which will show that at least four carriers and sometimes five are available in most cities, consumer groups are taking issue with that notion. Their is a concern by such consumer watchdog groups that the two biggest wireless players, AT&T and Verizon are just getting bigger and smaller competitors aren’t able to keep up especially in light of specialized deals with companies like Apple that gives AT&T and Verizon a significant heads up.
Needless to say the wheels are now in motion for the deal to be pushed through, held up or killed altogether. One thing is for certain, AT&T will be doing all it can and use all of its lobbying muscle to push this through, publicly because they need they spectrum and privately because AT&T just doesn’t’ want to lose this deal or end up having to write T-Mobile a $3 billion dollar check.