Kathleen O'Brien Ham is certainly no stranger to wireless regulation, and now that AT&T (NYSE:T) wants to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion, she is right in the thick of the one of the largest regulatory battles of her career.
Prior to the announcement of the deal on March 20, O'Brien Ham, who has been with T-Mobile since 2004 and remains the carrier's vice president of federal regulatory affairs, was a staunch advocate at the FCC for the company's policy agenda. As Tom Sugrue's chief lieutenant, she advocated T-Mobile's position in favor of mandatory data roaming rules (which the FCC approved by a 3-2 vote in April over the objections of AT&T) and for the auction of the 700 MHz D Block, among many other issues.
Ham also spent 14-years with the FCC and served as a senior attorney in the private radio and mass media bureau before moving to legal adviser to the chief of the Commercial Wireless Division. During her tenure at the FCC she was also the first chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau's auctions and industry analysis department, and served as deputy chief of both the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis.
Although O'Brien Ham is still continuing to advocate for T-Mobile's positions on a variety of issues before the FCC, and the company remains independent until regulators approve the AT&T acquisition, she and T-Mobile's priorities have taken a bit of a backseat to the unfolding regulatory gymnastics on display in Docket No. 11-65, the AT&T/T-Mobile docket. Sugrue, T-Mobile's senior vice president of government affairs, has taken the lead in advocating for approval of the deal. Meanwhile, because AT&T and T-Mobile have become so intertwined since March, AT&T's regulatory team, led by Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, has come to the fore to defend the deal, overshadowing T-Mobile's efforts.