Microsoft is one of a handful of tech giants publicly backing AT&T’s bid to acquire T-Mobile, according to documents submitted to the Federal Communications Commission.
In doing so, Microsoft joins Facebook, Oracle, Research In Motion, Yahoo and others. “Given the network capacity challenges, policymakers must give meaningful consideration to AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile as a means of addressing their near term wireless broadband capacity needs,” reads a June 6 letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, signed by the companies in question. “Such action will help to meet the near-term wireless broadband needs of consumers and ensure that we are globally competitive as the world increasingly embraces wireless broadband connectivity.”
For its part, the FCC has asked AT&T for evidence supporting the carrier’s claims that its spectrum is insufficient to provide future service. Government regulators are also interested in finding out whether AT&T’s acquisition will result in lost jobs. FCC officials have told eWEEK they have no intention of giving the acquisition request a “rubber stamp.”
While the acquisition has support from Microsoft and other big players, it has at least one diehard opponent: Sprint, which could find itself squeezed between mega-behemoths Verizon and AT&T if the deal is allowed to go through. In an official objection filed with the FCC in May, Sprint asserted that the acquisition would ultimately harm broadband economy, competition and consumers, without necessarily benefitting the public interest.
“AT&T is simply seeking a government bailout for problems of its own making and expects the cost of the bailout to be shouldered by American consumers,” read a prepared statement by Vonya McCann, senior vice president of government affairs for Sprint. “Instead of paying Deutsche Telekom [owners of T-Mobile] $39 billion, AT&T could invest a fraction of that amount to expand its LTE deployment to nearly all Americans.”
In addition to Sprint, a public-interest group called the Diogenes Project has also filed a similar opposition motion with the FCC. That group claims AT&T has no evidence to back its claims of spectrum shortage, and instead could use the T-Mobile merger to weaken its competition.
“What is truly shocking about the AT&T/T-Mobile application is the extent to which it misrepresents the conditions and capabilities of both companies and their prospects for the future were they to remain independent,” reads the filing from the Diogenes Project.
Both the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice will ultimately need to examine whether the acquisition violates antitrust regulations, and possibly ask the carrier for concessions such as price caps. Whatever the ultimate result, though, it seems that companies like Microsoft-which, incidentally, needs AT&T to push its Windows Phone-are falling on the side of the carrier as it tries to swallow T-Mobile.