News by Andrew Kameka on Thursday October 18, 2012.
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AT&T says regulators may need to pay special attention to SoftBank's $20.1 billion purchase of Sprint, but it may not be for the reasons one might expect. Following today's announcement that Sprint has purchased a majority share of Clearwire, which would effectively mean that SoftBank would have a controlling interest once it takes over Sprint, AT&T has raised questions about how regulators will feel about a foreign company owning more spectrum that any U.S. entity. AT&T Vice President Brad Burns released the following statement earlier today:
"Softbank's acquisition of Sprint and the control it gains over Clearwire will give one of Japan's largest wireless companies control of significantly more U.S. wireless spectrum than any other company. We expect that fact and others will be fully explored in the regulatory review process. This is one more example of a very dynamic and competitive U.S. wireless marketplace, which is an important fact for U.S. regulators to recognize."
On the surface, it may appear that AT&T is attempting to encourage regulators to block or scale back the deal in the interest of U.S. protectionism, but that is likely not the case. British telecomm Vodafone owns 45 percent of Verizon, and T-Mobile is a subsidiary of German company Deutsche Telekom. What's more likely is that AT&T is using this statement to pressure the government to recognize the importance of delivering spectrum to meet the growing needs of wireless customers.
AT&T, and other members of the CTIA, have claimed that a pending spectrum crunch will make it difficult for carriers to build networks that can sustain user demand. The network operator trade group has urged regulators to free up more spectrum or approve consolidation deals that increasingly put more control in the hands of bigger networks. Government opposition led to AT&T abandoning its attempt to purchase T-Mobile, and executives from the company have released critical statements of the FCC and DOJ for a failure to let companies improve the wireless market. Burns' statement may be yet another case of a carrier suggesting to regulators that they need to be more willing to approve spectrum sales and acquisition deals. Otherwise, the market will either not be able to be competitive or enough or may be subject to the decisions of foreign corporations.via: The Hill
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.