AT&T (NYSE:T) is hoping regulators will take a close look at Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) spectrum holdings now that it is in the process of being acquired by Japan's Softbank and is purchasing a controlling stake in Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR).
Earlier this week, Japanese operator Softbank announced it would purchase 70 percent of Sprint for $20.1 billion. And yesterday, Sprint announced it was purchasing a controlling share of Clearwire by purchasing about $100 million worth of Clearwire stock from Eagle River Holdings, the investment firm owned by wireless pioneer Craig McCaw.
AT&T, which is still seething from its failed bid last year to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion, hopes to warn regulators that these developments will mean that a foreign company could soon control large chunks of the nation's spectrum. "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," said Brad Burns, an AT&T vice president, in a statement reported by The Hill.
Regulators from the FCC and the Department of Justice prevented AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile.
AT&T yesterday gained regulatory approval from the FCC for changes to the 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum band that will allow the company to use the spectrum for LTE. The order will allow LTE mobile broadband deployment in 20 MHz of WCS spectrum and would also make an additional 10 MHz of spectrum available for fixed broadband, with the possibility of mobile broadband use in the future.
AT&T also is attempting to get FCC approval for its purchase of WCS licenses from NextWave Wireless, Comcast and Horizon Wi-Com. According to The Hill, AT&T's statement regarding Sprint could be seen as a way to pressure the FCC to approve its smaller spectrum deals if it allows Softbank's acquisition of Sprint and it's control of Clearwire to be approved.
- see this The Hill article
FCC approves AT&T's 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum plan
Sprint gains controlling stake in Clearwire
Softbank to take control of Sprint: Complete coverage
Entner: Softbank's purchase of Sprint could make it a bandwidth powerhouse