Cincinnati Bell: AT&T should give us its exclusive handsets

The FCC should force AT&T to give small wireless carriers access to its exclusive handsets if it approves AT&T's $944 million proposed acquisition of Centennial Communications, Cincinnati Bell said in a filing.

In the filing, Cincinnati Bell said that AT&T's purchase of Centennial "will reduce smaller carriers' ability to compete in purchasing handsets in another, complementary way as well--it will deprive smaller carriers of an ally and consortium partner in buying arrangements." Cincinnati Bell said it was part of a consortium of carriers, which included Centennial, formed to get "relatively competitive prices and terms from a number of handset providers."

"Thus, AT&T's merger with Centennial will exacerbate the inequality in bargaining positions and make it even easier for AT&T to impose exclusivity requirements on handset manufacturers," the carrier said. As a remedy, the FCC should impose on AT&T's purchase of Centennial a condition that is "parallel" to an offer on handset exclusivity that Verizon Wireless made earlier this year.

In July, Verizon said it would give small wireless carriers--those with 500,000 or fewer subscribers--access to all of its exclusive devices from all of its handset partners six months after Verizon launches the phones. The Rural Cellular Association rebuffed the offer.

An AT&T spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Department has approved AT&T's proposed acquisition of Centennial, but the FCC is still considering the deal. Meanwhile, the FCC is investigating handset exclusivity and wireless competition more broadly.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this FCC filing

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