AT&T to Defend T-Mobile Deal

Cell Top executives from AT&T and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom are trying to convince members of Congress that AT&T’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA would lead to better wireless service and faster mobile Internet connections for more Americans.

Randall Stephenson, president and CEO of AT&T Inc., and Rene Obermann, chief executive of Deutsche Telekom AG which owns T-Mobile USA, are scheduled to testify Thursday before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet.

AT&T, the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier, is seeking federal approval to acquire T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest. The cash-and-stock deal would catapult AT&T past Verizon Wireless to become the biggest cellphone company in the country.

Although it will ultimately be up to the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission to approve or block the transaction, Congress will likely influence the outcome of the government review.

AT&T and T-Mobile say the deal would allow the companies to combine their limited wireless spectrum holdings and make more efficient use of the critical airwaves needed to handle mobile apps, video and other bandwidth-hungry online services. That would results in fewer blocked and dropped calls and faster Internet connections.

AT&T warns that it is running out of airwaves, particularly in dense metropolitan areas, as sophisticated new mobile devices like the Apple iPhone put enormous strain on its network.

AT&T has also said the purchase of T-Mobile would enable it to cover more than 97 percent of the U.S. population with its new high-speed, fourth-generation wireless service. Ensuring that all Americans, particularly those in rural areas, have access to affordable Internet access is a top priority of the FCC and the Obama administration.

Other witnesses scheduled to testify Thursday include Steven Berry, head of the Rural Cellular Association, and Parul Desai, communications policy counsel for Consumers Union. Both are expected to warn that the deal would make it nearly impossible for smaller wireless carriers to compete ? leaving a duopoly market controlled by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

At a news conference Wednesday, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a key member of the House Commerce Committee, raised similar concerns.

Source: The Associated Press.