Groups: FCC should deny AT&T spectrum purchase

The FCC should combine its review of AT&T's Qualcomm and T-Mobile deals, consumer groups say

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission should deny AT&T's plan to buy US$1.9 billion worth of wireless spectrum from Qualcomm because of the telecom carrier's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA, several consumer groups said Wednesday.

The FCC should combine its reviews of the two deals, Free Press, Public Knowledge, Consumers Union and other groups wrote in a letter to the agency.

"The proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile would reshape the entire American wireless industry in a single stroke," the groups wrote. "With possible approval of this transaction lingering on the horizon, the Public Interest Organizations can no longer imagine conditions that could outweigh the risk of competitive harm posed by the further growth of AT&T through acquisition of additional beachfront spectrum licenses from Qualcomm."

AT&T announced in March its plans to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. In December, the carrier said it intends to buy Qualcomm spectrum licenses in the lower 700MHz band for $1.9 billion.

Mobile broadband experts see the 700MHz band as prime spectrum for offering mobile broadband services. Signals in the 700MHz band travel farther and penetrate buildings and other physical objects better than in higher spectrum bands.

AT&T did not immediately respond to the letter. The company defended the T-Mobile acquisition in a recent blog post, saying the deal will be good for customers.

The acquisition "will address capacity constraints that both of our companies face, which will enable the combined company to provide improved services in the many urban, suburban, and rural markets where the enormous surge in broadband usage is fast consuming available capacity," wrote Joan Marsh , AT&T's vice president of federal regulatory affairs. "What this means is fewer dropped calls, fewer failed call attempts, and better data throughput."

The consumer groups disagreed. The two deals "would further empower an already dominant wireless carrier to leverage its control over devices, backhaul, and consumers in ways that stifle competition," the groups wrote.

AT&T must prove that the proposed transfer of spectrum licenses serves the public interest, the groups said. "The harm to consumers and to competition exceeds any potential benefits of the transfer," the letter added. "Licenses for beachfront spectrum below 1 GHz are disproportionately held by two companies, AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The proposed Qualcomm license transfer would only further this competitive disparity."

Other groups signing the letter were the New America Foundation and the Media Access Project.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobilebroadbandregulationbusiness issueslegaltelecommunicationqualcommantitrustat&tfree pressMergers / acquisitionsU.S. Federal Communications CommissionNew America FoundationPublic KnowledgeT-Mobile USAMedia Access ProjectConsumers UnionJoan Marsh

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?