AT&T and the Justice Department have mutually agreed to stay an upcoming trial over the former’s proposed T-Mobile USA acquisition.
“AT&T and Deutsche Telekom advised Judge [Ellen] Huvelle this morning that they wish to stay any further Court proceedings until Jan. 18, 2012, to allow the two companies time to evaluate all options,” read a Dec. 12 statement released by AT&T. “We are actively considering whether and how to revise our current transaction to achieve the necessary regulatory approvals.”
Deutsche Telekom owns T-Mobile USA. According to the Associated Press, Huvelle agreed with the motion. Under the new guidelines, AT&T will file a report detailing its plans for the acquisition by Jan. 12. A new court hearing will come Jan. 18.
Earlier in 2011, when AT&T announced that it wanted to acquire T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom for some $39 billion, a number of parties reacted poorly. Some lawmakers argued the deal would harm competition. Sprint announced its intention to fight the merger with everything it had, eventually filing its own antitrust lawsuit. However, AT&T executives argued the deal would prove beneficial for the wireless industry, by reducing economies of scale while increasing the reach of its network.
By the end of September, though, the Justice Department had filed an antitrust lawsuit to permanently block the buyout, and held the first preliminary hearing for a trial. At the time, Judge Huvelle declined to combine Sprint’s antitrust lawsuit with that of government regulators.
Meanwhile, in November, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski began circulating a draft order referring the merger to an administrative law judge for trial. That order argued that such a merger wasn’t in the public interest.
According to one FCC official, a commission study of internal documents obtained from AT&T and T-Mobile helped the regulators arrive at that decision. Staff reviewing those documents concluded that the merger’s touted benefits did not align with the facts at hand. Even then, an FCC action against the merger couldn’t begin until the Justice Department concluded its antitrust suit.
Sprint has argued repeatedly that no settlement will satisfy it. AT&T responded to its rival’s campaign with a series of ads in Washington, D.C., newspapers accusing it of being disingenuous and that rhetorical battle will almost certainly continue to the merger’s ultimate conclusion. AT&T’s broader marketing campaign claimed that swallowing T-Mobile would result in more jobs.