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Regulation

Cellular Resurrection

6:05 PM -- Although just about everyone else under the sun had a comment or reaction to the U.S. Department of Justice 's move to block the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)/T-Mobile US Inc. deal, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) wasn't among them. In fact, it declined to comment at all. (See DoJ Blocks AT&T/T-Mobile Merger.)

And that's sort of surprising, especially if the proposed deal is indeed "all but definitively dead," as Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett sees it. If anyone should be singing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" about this turn of events, it's Cablevision.

Cablevision didn't urge the deal to be killed, but it did press the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to apply some strict conditions, including one that would pave the way for "wholesale-like" partnerships that, it believes, AT&T wouldn't be crazy about accommodating. Cablevision added that an independent T-Mobile (hint, hint) "is one of only two nationwide carriers willing to enter into the type of wholesale partnership sought by providers like Cablevision." (See Is AT&T Messing Up Cablevision's Mobile Plans?)

Just before the DoJ shook up AT&T's world, Cablevision did make a connection with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) -- to offer discounted wireless services to some of the MSO's small- and mid-sized business customers. That's not even close to an MVNO approach that we think Cablevision is considering with its yet-to-be-launched Optimum Mobile dual cellular/Wi-Fi service, but doing something with Sprint looks like a bit of hedge-betting, even if one has to squint a lot to see it. (See Cablevision Trademarks Mobile, RS-DVR Brands and Cablevision Gets Closer to Sprint.)

If AT&T loses out on T-Mobile, then it would seem that a GSM-based opportunity could present itself to Cablevision again without potential interference from AT&T.

I'm the cable guy on staff, so that's my big winner from yesterday's big news. Moffett has different ideas. He thinks MSOs such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) are sitting pretty because T-Mobile might re-emerge as a buyer for their Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum holdings. But he says the biggest winner may be Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), because an AT&T-free T-Mobile gives it "a much more credible potential partner for its nascent wireless strategy." (See Dish Sizing Up Mobile Broadband Service and Dish Keeps Wireless Options Open .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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