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AT&T to Oppose Sprint-Clearwire Merger

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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones) AT&T, which has the largest wireless subscriber base in the country, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to deny a merger request from Sprint Nextel and Clearwire.

Sprint and Clearwire announced their intention to merge last month, saying the venture would facilitate a national wireless Internet network that would operate on a block of airwaves partly reserved for schools, cities and other nonprofits.

Sprint Spokesman Scott Sloat said almost 50 public entities that have access to those airwaves filed comments favoring the merger.

"They are supportive of the transaction because it would bring wireless mobile broadband to that spectrum faster, and they'll be able to utilize it," Sloat said.

Under Sprint and Clearwire's plan, the nonprofit and municipal entities that hold licenses in the same channel range will lease those airwaves to Sprint and Clearwire. With that and the Sprint and Clearwire holdings, the merged company will roll out its wireless Internet service.

In a filing submitted to the FCC Thursday, AT&T said Sprint and Clearwire "openly state that they intend to compete with other national wireless providers - including AT&T - yet they fail to make the required showings necessary for the commission's review."

In listing their holdings, AT&T said Sprint and Clearwire have discounted some of the airwaves they intend to use for the Internet service because it isn't operational yet.

If those airwaves were to be taken into account, the proposed merger would be subjected to heightened scrutiny, AT&T said.

AT&T argued that when it acquired Dobson Communications last year, the FCC examined airwaves that AT&T hasn't yet accessed. AT&T purchased a block of spectrum in a recent auction that won't be available until February.

"While AT&T does not fundamentally oppose the underlying transactions, the regulatory process must be consistent for all entrants," AT&T's filing said. "The applicants themselves have positioned their company as the single largest holder of broadband mobile spectrum in the country."

Sloat said Sprint and Clearwire have documented to the FCC on a county-by-county basis how much spectrum they would hold.

Sloat didn't deny that Sprint and Clearwire will be in direct competition with AT&T for wireless Internet customers. "This will bring competition to the broadband industry, giving everyone another option," he said.

Verizon Communications, another giant in the wireless market, didn't file a comment on the proposed merger between Sprint and Clearwire.

-By Fawn Johnson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9263; fawn.johnson@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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