When AT&T first submitted its pitch to the FCC on why it needed to buy T-Mobile, they’re general theme was that it would be better for customers. They claimed that their current network would not be able to sustain the impending influx of smartphone data traffic and that the acquisition of T-Mobile would boost network coverage and build-out. Well, now the FCC has shot back its first round of questions for AT&T’s response.
The FCC posted a set of 50 questions for AT&T, which included a demand for showing thorough analysis and plans for dealing with spectrum shortages, and also an explanation for why AT&T had under-used capacity. Challengers, such as Sprint and other carriers have claimed that AT&T has bad network management and has been sitting on spectrum that it hasn’t been using. AT&T rebutted this saying that using that spectrum as-is would provide an incomplete solution.
AT&T has argued the acquisition of T-Mobile would help add capacity to its current 3G network as well as expand to rural areas. The company also promised that this would boost their 4G LTE coverage to as mush as 97 percent of the U.S. population. But, the FCC wants the carrier to show what other options were considered to solve its network demand problems, besides this $39 billion acquisition.
Additionally, the FCC questioned whether customers that switched away from AT&T did so because of pricing issues or service quality. They also demanded that both AT&T and T-Mobile bring forth any long-term pricing plans to be compared with other carriers. This indicated that the FCC wanted to address concerns about post-merger price hikes.
Advocacy groups and smaller carriers are concerned that the FCC most likely will not flat out reject the merger, but instead will just negotiate certain terms. It’s still very early on to judge, as the process will take several more months.