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Sprint doubles down on government`s AT&T antitrust suit


05/09/2011

Apparently the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust complaint against AT&T’s T-Mobile acquisition wasn’t enough for Sprint. It’s filed an antitrust lawsuit of its own, making many of the same predictions of competitive calamities befalling the U.S. wireless that the government claimed in its complaint (CP: DOJ lawsuit dashes AT&T’s hopes of an easy merger review).

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“Sprint opposes AT&T’s proposed takeover of T-Mobile,” said Susan Haller, Sprint vice president-Litigation, in a statement. “With today’s legal action, we are continuing that advocacy on behalf of consumers and competition, and expect to contribute our expertise and resources in proving that the proposed transaction is illegal.”

Sprint’s statement ticked off a laundry list of potential negative outcomes if the merger was approved:

· “Harm retail consumers and corporate customers by causing higher prices and less innovation.

· “Entrench the duopoly control of AT&T and Verizon, the two "Ma Bell" descendants, of the almost one-quarter of a trillion dollarwireless market. As a result of the transaction, AT&T and Verizon would control more than three-quarters of that market and 90 percent of the profits.

· “Harm Sprint and the other independent wireless carriers. If the transaction were to be allowed, a combined AT&T and T-Mobile would have the ability to use its control over backhaul, roaming and spectrum, and its increased market position to exclude competitors, raise their costs, restrict their access to handsets, damage their businesses and ultimately to lessen competition.”

Those arguments aren’t anything Sprint hasn’t claimed before. The difference is Sprint is cementing them in a lawsuit. Assuming the District of Columbia federal court hears the case, Sprint aims to keep the pressure on AT&T, especially if it somehow manages to come to terms with DOJ antitrust lawyers. The government may be willing to accept concessions from AT&T, but Sprint is much less likely to settle.

AT&T reportedly is working on just such a settlement with administration lawyers. Last week, Reuters reported that AT&T is launching a two-pronged strategy to fight the governments suit, working on a settlement that could see it divesting as much as a quarter of T-Mobile’s assets, while challenging the lawsuit in court (CP: AT&T prepping settlement to appease DOJ).



 

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