AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA will cause 'Ma Bell duopoly', says Sprint

Sprint Nextel, the United States' third largest wireless network operator on Monday officially took a stance against wireless network operator AT&T's proposed acquisition of number four network operator T-Mobile USA.

Sprint's opposition should be anything but surprising, as the company says AT&T and T-Mobile combined would be three times bigger than Sprint, and would "entrench AT&T's and Verizon's duopoly control over the wireless market."

"This transaction will harm consumers and harm competition at a time when this country can least afford it," Sprint's senior vice president of Government Affairs, Vonya McCann said in a statement Monday. "On behalf of our customers, our industry and our country, Sprint will fight this attempt by AT&T to undo the progress of the past 25 years and create a new Ma Bell duopoly."

The merger of the two companies will require the approval of the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the FCC anticipates an uphill regulatory battle for AT&T.

Because of AT&T's size, the fear of another "Ma Bell" is frequently revealed whenever the company attempts to expand and acquire other national or regional operators. For example, there were prolonged antitrust hearings In 2006 when the company proposed a merger with BellSouth, but that deal was eventually approved by the FCC. That "mega merger" followed shortly after the combination of Verizon and MCI in 2005; another telecom merger that cut down wireline communications' competitive landscape. Sprint today says the combination of T-Mobile and AT&T will have a similar effect on the wIreless industry.

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