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AT&T hits back: 'T-Mobile USA merger will be great, actually'

FCC's condemnation of proposed union not fair, says telco

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AT&T have hit back at a staff analysis from the FCC slamming its proposed merger with T-Mobile USA, saying the regulator "cherry-picked" facts to support its views.

The Federal Communications Commission published its report on the proposed union yesterday, despite AT&T's protests, and accused the firms of trying to mislead it on staffing and other benefits.

Today, the carrier said that the report was not a fair analysis.

"The document is so obviously one-sided that any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece, and not a considered analysis," Jim Cicconi, senior VP of external and legislative affairs said in a written statement.

"In our view, the report raises questions as to whether its authors were predisposed. The report cherry-picks facts to support its views, and ignores facts that don't. Where facts were lacking, the report speculates, with no basis, and then treats its own speculations as if they were fact."

The statement goes on to lay out arguments against the FCC's issues with jobs and competition and its assertions that the two firms don't need each other to expand LTE to 97 per cent of the population.

AT&T, the largest wireless carrier in the US, wants to slurp T-Mobile USA, the fourth largest, in a deal that has riled the FCC and the Department of Justice.

The regulators feel the resulting company would violate anti-competition laws and wouldn't create the jobs and other benefits that the two firms say it will.

At the end of last week, AT&T and Deutsche Telekom withdrew their merger application from the FCC, but insisted the deal wasn't dead and they would continue to pursue it with the DoJ, returning to the FCC later.

But the move has been interpreted by many as the beginning of the end for the deal.

AT&T and T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom have reportedly talked about forming a joint venture with assets from their US operations if the merger falls through.

People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal the plan wasn't really fleshed out and was just something they had as a back-up, but that they might be going back for a second look given the regulatory opposition to the merger.

The reason AT&T wants T-Mobile USA so badly, and is willing to take a $4bn hit if the deal can't go down, is that it wants additional wireless capacity to support smartphones. A joint venture that gave the carrier that capacity could be an elegant solution that may sidestep the competition concerns.

A Deutsche Telekom spokesman told The Register that the company doesn't comment on rumours and speculation, but added that it was continuing to pursue the sale of its US subsidiary to AT&T.

"Our focus, as we communicated last Thursday, is on the lawsuit initiated by the DoJ. We will submit a new application for approval, together with our partner AT&T, to the FCC at an appropriate time," he added. ®

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