Sprint Tells FCC ATandT-T-Mobile Merger Will Harm Consumers, Competition

News Analysis: Sources tell eWEEK that AT&T isn't being truthful about its claims of a spectrum shortage for 4G LTE as well as the potential impact its proposed $39 billion buyout of T-Mobile will have on competition and consumers.

AT&T's claims that it needs additional spectrum to deploy its planned 4G network simply don't reflect reality, according to sources close to Sprint who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

This assertion came as Sprint filed with the Federal Communications Commission on May 31 its official objections to AT&T's proposed $39 billion buyout of wireless company T-Mobile on the grounds that it would be harmful to the consumer and provide no public benefit.

In its filing with the FCC requesting transfer of T-Mobile's licenses, AT&T claimed that it lacks the spectrum necessary to deploy LTE. But the sources told eWEEK that AT&T has more spectrum available than any other carrier, including Verizon Wireless, which has successfully deployed LTE across much of the United States.

AT&T has huge amounts of unused spectrum that it can tap, including a large part of the 700MHz AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) band that it has so far failed to use. T-Mobile has AWS at 1,900MHz and 2,100MHz. However, combining those three bands for LTE isn't technically feasible, negating AT&T's claim that it needs this spectrum to expand its 4G network.

No less an authority than Ren??« Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom, has also made statements that T-Mobile doesn't haveusable LTE bands. The actual situation regarding T-Mobile is unclear because earlier in the year T-Mobile, in its stockholder's statement, reported that it had plenty of spectrum available for the continued growth of its HSPA+ network.

Today's filing with the FCC makes Sprint's opposition official. In the petition to deny the license transfer, Sprint says that the proposed merger would beharmful to the broadband economy, competition and consumers, and that the takeover of T-Mobile would harm innovation and investment. Sprint also said that there is no public interest benefit.

In comments released by the company along with the FCC filing, Sprint said that AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile would do nothing to relieve spectrum congestion, noting that AT&T already has the largest spectrum holdings of any wireless company in the United States, much of it still unused. Sprint also questions AT&T's assertion that it needs T-Mobile to reach 97 percent of the U.S. population, since its current spectrum holdings already enable that reach.

In its press release, Sprint suggests that the worst possible choice for American consumers is to have what it calls "Twin Bells" in charge of virtually all of the wireless communications in the United States The Twin Bells refers to the fact that both AT&T and Verizon Wireless are reconstituted survivors of the original breakup of AT&T by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1984.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...