Senate to hold hearing May 11 on AT&T/T-Mobile deal

The Senate will hold the first congressional hearing on AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA on May 11, and judging by the hearing's formal title, it appears AT&T is in for a bumpy ride. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights will conduct the hearing, which is entitled, "The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger: Is Humpty Dumpty Being Put Back Together Again?" The "Humpty Dumpty" reference likely is a nod to the days of Ma Bell, when AT&T was the country's telephone monopoly before the government broke it up in the 1980s. Since then, many pieces of that empire have been reconstituted in the company now known as AT&T.

Other congressional panels are expected to hold hearings on the deal at some point this year. Both the FCC and the Department of Justice must review the deal.

The tone of the hearing's title dovetails with the one established by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the subcommittee's chairman, when AT&T announced plans to acquire T-Mobile March 20. "Consumers have borne the brunt of the increasingly concentrated market for mobile phone service," he said in a statement at the time. "The explosion of cell phone usage--especially smartphones--makes competition in this market more important than ever as a check on prices, consumer choice and service. That's why the Antitrust Subcommittee will take a close look at what this loss of competition will mean for people who increasingly rely on wireless phone service to connect to friends, family and the Internet."  

AT&T has argued that the transaction will lead to greater spectral efficiency, enhanced coverage and capacity for customers and that the combined AT&T and T-Mobile will be able to deliver LTE service to 46 million more Americans than they could separately, in part by using T-Mobile's AWS 1700 MHz spectrum for LTE in suburban and rural areas.

For more:
- see this The Hill article
- see this Multichannel News article

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