Report: FCC to stay neutral on wireless competition in latest report

The FCC is expected to remain neutral on whether the wireless industry is "effectively competitive" when it releases its latest report on mobile competition, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources.

The FCC's report will come at a critical time for assessing mobile competition, with AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA being reviewed by both the FCC and Department of Justice. The companies expect the deal, which has the potential to reshape the U.S. wireless industry and which critics say will harm competition, to close next year.

Just as it did last year, the FCC is expected to take a neutral stance on the state of competition, and conclude that the industry is neither uncompetitive nor effectively competitive. The report, the 15th annual version of the Mobile Wireless Competition Report, is expected to be released next month, the Journal reported. The FCC took a neutral stance last year, the first time it had done so in six years. However, for the first seven years of the report, the FCC also was neutral on competition.

"Because the mobile marketplace is so incredibly diverse, an up-or-down determination on competition would be oversimplistic. An examination of the wireless ecosystem must consider many factors, including spectrum holdings, towers, network equipment, backhaul, devices and others," a senior FCC official told FierceWireless. "As we did last year, we believe this report represents the best approach."

Trying to get out ahead of the report, the CTIA said in a statement attributed to President Steve Largent that it hopes the report reflects the "tremendous innovation and investment that occurred in the wireless ecosystem in 2009 and 2010. Consumers enjoyed more advanced handsets, an ever-expanding range of services and applications and more robust networks, even as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that prices decreased. Additionally, the mobile ecosystem expanded into areas such as mHealth, mobile education, intelligent transportation, smart grid and more."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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