Cellular South Files Lawsuit Over ATandT, T-Mobile Deal

The company joins the DOJ, Sprint and several watchdog firms in arguing the acquisition should not be approved.

Add privately held wireless communications provider Cellular South to the list of organizations and companies protesting the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA by network operator AT&T. Cellular South filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing the deal should not be allowed to go through. The company joins the U.S. Department of Justice and several watchdog firms in arguing the acquisition should not be approved.

"The proposed merger will allow AT&T to increase this influence by eliminating T-Mobile as an independent source of demand for wireless devices and an independent roaming partner," Cellular South wrote in the complaint, which was seen by CNET. "The resulting competitive harm will be felt by regional carriers, including Cellular South, who will find it harder to secure both wireless devices at competitive prices and times and nationwide roaming."

AT&T is currently in the midst of a high-stakes legal battle with the U.S. government over its proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA, Deutsche Telekom's U.S. arm. The DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit Aug. 31 seeking to prevent the proposed merger, arguing it would reduce competition for mobile wireless communications services across the United States, according to a Justice Department statement.

Cellular South, which currently has 870,000 customers in Southern states, including Florida and Tennessee, is not the first network operator to file a lawsuit against the deal. Earlier this month, AT&T rival Sprint followed in the DOJ's footsteps by filing its own complaint.

"AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile is brazenly anti-competitive," the company argued in its court filing. "In one fell swoop, AT&T's proposed purchase would eliminate one of four national competitors and marginalize a second (Sprint), pushing the market back toward a 1980s-style cell phone duopoly that would force consumers to endure higher prices and be denied the fruits of vigorous innovation."

In addition, the Federal Communications Commission in August dealt a blow to AT&T by tying together the company's proposed acquisition with a $1.9 billion deal that would see AT&T acquire some of Qualcomm's spectrum licenses. The agency's ongoing review has confirmed that the proposed transactions raise a number of related issues, including, but not limited to, questions regarding AT&T's aggregation of spectrum throughout the nation, particularly in overlapping areas.

Cellular South is continuing a $90 million network expansion as it readies plans to introduce 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) high-speed mobile broadband services in an effort to compete with rivals like AT&T and Verizon. Kevin Hankins, chief operating officer for Cellular South, said the company plans to continue its network-expansion activities for the remainder of 2011, including the activation of 51 new cell sites to expand coverage and network quality for wireless voice and data communications.

The company also expects the completion of an extensive network-wide core and switching systems infrastructure capacity upgrade project with Alcatel-Lucent and the placement of 32,400 strand miles of single-mode fiber optics to boost capacity, data transmission and network redundancy through an agreement with Telepak Networks.

Hankins said Cellular South network teams and technicians are spending thousands of hours updating the network for improved voice and data services. "Wireless networks are all about coverage, quality and speed, and the Cellular South network cannot be beat. Our network expansion shows that we are taking the necessary steps to ready our network for 4G LTE, and we are serious about continuing to be the best provider of smartphone and mobile broadband services," he added.