Jasmin Melvin Reuters 7:44 p.m. EDT, June 21, 2011
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – AT&T Inc said its $39 billion plan to buy T-Mobile USA remains on track for approval in the first quarter of 2012.
AT&T General Counsel Wayne Watts told reporters on Tuesday that the regulators’ review of the deal thus far had been thorough, fact-based and “exactly as we expected.”
The company has supplied the Justice Department with a requested second round of data, and has reviewed the comments of those who oppose the deal. The comment period closed Monday at the Federal Communications Commission.
“Here we are the day after those comments are in, and I can tell you I have not been surprised by anything that has happened in that process,” Watts said.
The deal, which requires FCC and Justice Department approval, would concentrate 80 percent of U.S. wireless contract customers in just two companies — AT&T/T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
AT&T contends that the merger is necessary to improve service to its customers in the near-term by upgrading a network criticized by consumers for dropped calls and slow data speeds.
The company has committed to expanding next generation 4G wireless service to 97 percent of the U.S. population.
Further, T-Mobile USA has said it will not be able to remain competitive in the U.S. wireless market as its parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG , is unable to finance the investments required to handle the growth in data usage.
Watts rejected criticisms of the merger, including accusations that AT&T is warehousing spectrum and creating a duopoly with Verizon.
He said that while wireless carriers provide a national service, service plans and contracts are bought at the local level. He was confident regulators would review the deal on a market-by-market basis.
“There are so many competitors in the various markets that there are a wide range of markets where there’s going to be four or more competitors left after this transaction,” Watts said.
Watts declined to speculate about any conditions regulators might want to place on the deal or what kind of conditions the company might be willing to accept in exchange for approval.
“Having too many conditions doesn’t look like what we should be thinking about right now. We’re focusing on getting it done,” he said.