AT&T execs hit the road in defense of T-Mobile deal

After sparring with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) during a congressional hearing last week, AT&T (NYSE:T) executives are taking their case for the company's proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA on the road.  

AT&T (NYSE:T) CEO Randall Stephenson emphasized the benefits of the deal in his opening keynote yesterday at the TIA 2011 conference in Dallas, pointing out that AT&T needs to combine with T-Mobile to expand its spectrum presence. Specifically, the AT&T chief said he expects mobile data traffic on the company's network to grow 8 to 10 times by 2015, and that by 2015 AT&T will be handling as much data in a month and a half as it handled in all of 2010. "The next five years are not going to be planned, and they are not going to be deliberate," he said. "In fact, they will be somewhat chaotic and will come faster."

Sprint, along with a number of smaller carriers such as Cellular South and an array of public interest groups oppose the deal. MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) CFO Braxton Carter said this week at an investor conference that his company is worried about the spectrum position AT&T would attain if regulators at the FCC and Department of Justice approve the deal.

In Silicon Valley, AT&T executives are working to generate support for the transaction--or at least counter opposition. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, CTO John Donovan and Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of legislative and external affairs, met Tuesday for two hours with 10 large technology companies, and also had lunch with venture capitalists.

The report said technology companies are concerned about the impact the deal might have on spectrum availability, innovation and the openness of wireless networks. AT&T executives argue that the deal will help AT&T strengthen its network so it can support more bandwidth-hungry applications, and also said AT&T is committed to innovation.

"Most people were there in a be-friendly mode," one source told the Journal. "No one was grilling them. Nobody was being confrontational."

For more:
- see this GigaOM article
- see this Dallas Morning News article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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