The Wall Street Journal first reported the FCC's request for a hearing, ordered by Chairman Julius Genachowski, on Tuesday, and the FCC confirmed the move later in the afternoon. Genachowski says the FCC will circulate a draft order designating the merger for a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Vonya McCann.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit in August to stop the merger. If the DoJ is unsuccessful in thwarting the merger, it would go to the FCC hearing, in which both sides can make their case on whether the merger is in the public interest. Right now, the trial request is in draft stages, awaiting approval from the other commissioners. (See DoJ Blocks AT&T/T-Mobile Merger.)
Unsurprisingly, merger opponent Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) issued a statement applauding the move, and AT&T issued one saying they are reviewing all options.
"It is yet another example of a government agency acting to prevent billions in new investment and the creation of many thousands of new jobs at a time when the U.S. economy desperately needs both," AT&T wrote.
Why this matters
Opposition to the merger is louder than ever. With the government officially opposing it, along with a number of wireless operators and consumer groups and 57 percent of Light Reading readers, it's looking increasingly like the merger will not be approved, even if hefty concessions are made. (See Consumers Really Do Oppose AT&T/T-Mobile.) If the merger is not approved, AT&T says it would face significant spectrum constraints, and T-Mobile would lose its only clear path to Long Term Evolution (LTE). (See What Could T-Mobile Do After AT&T? and AT&T: What It Loses Without T-Mobile.) For more
Read up on the legalese surrounding AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile.
- Sprint Files to Block AT&T/T-Mob Too
- AT&T & T-Mobile: Sprint Sues, DT Confirms $3B Fee
- Govt Blocks AT&T/T-Mobile Deal
- Deputy AG: Merger Meant Higher Prices
- FCC Comments on AT&T, T-Mobile Merger
- Analyst: DoJ Suit Bad for All Carriers
And, all of our coverage related to the merger can be found here. — Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile