AT&T, RCA oppose Clearwire-Sprint WiMAX tie-up

The proposed merger between Clearwire and Sprint Nextel's WiMAX business is coming under some scrutiny from the likes of AT&T and rural operators in filings with the FCC.

AT&T, which has the largest subscriber base in the U.S., argued that the venture would eventually use spectrum leased from schools, cities and nonprofits and that the spectrum hasn't been fully accounted for in the proposed merger. Earlier this year, the two announced their intention to combine their WiMAX businesses with the help of $3.2 billion from Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House.

AT&T argues that when it purchased Dobson Communications last year, the FCC took into account spectrum AT&T has not yet accessed. In its filing, AT&T states that Clearwire and Sprint "openly state that they intend to compete with other national wireless providers--including AT&T--yet they fail to make the required showings necessary for the commission's review."

AT&T said Sprint and Clearwire, in listing their spectrum holdings, have discounted some spectrum they intend to use because it isn't operational yet. If the FCC would take into account all of the combined entity's spectrum holdings, the merger would be put under much higher scrutiny, AT&T argued.

Meanwhile, rural wireless operators, in a separate filing via the Rural Cellular Association to deny the hook-up, said they were concerned about roaming. The RCA said that under "these unique circumstances there is a manifest need for the commission to recognize the impact of both transactions upon consumers and act to promote carrier-to-carrier network interoperability, including automatic roaming for voice and data, notably for wireless broadband services."

Other groups, such as the Wireless Communications Alliance (WCA) and the Catholic Television Network, support the merger. WCA said the new joint venture offers the FCC "a unique opportunity to maximize the benefits of its new 2.5 GHz band plan and to spur widespread deployment of WiMAX technology by New Clearwire and others."

The Catholic Television Network said the deal "will benefit EBS licensees by facilitating the deployment of advanced wireless broadband networks on EBS spectrum."

For more:
- read RCR Wireless News
- check out Dow Jones

Related stories:
A breakdown of the Sprint-Clearwire deal. Sprint-Clearwire deal story
AT&T completes Dobson acquisition. AT&T story