AT&T Succumbs To The Inevitable: Drops T-Mobile Merger Plan

There goes the $4B break-up fee that AT&T promised to pay T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom if the merger went awry. Meanwhile, shares of Sprint Nextel — which risked being marginalized by the AT&T/T-Mobile combo — are up 7.9% in after-hours trading, after falling 4% during the day. AT&T’s dream deal effectively was cooked after the Justice Department and FCC said that a merger would result in less competition and higher consumer prices. Justice said it would sue to block the deal, and the FCC began a process that promised to drag things out even more. But AT&T says that its decision to scrap the plan doesn’t change the fact that wireless carriers need more spectrum. “The AT&T and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage,” the company said. “In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.” CEO Randall Stephenson added that his company “will continue to invest” in wireless. He urged lawmakers to approve AT&T’s bid to buy spectrum controlled by Qualcomm, and “enact legislation to meet our nation’s longer-term spectrum needs.” That’s code for: Let’s pry spectrum away from TV broadcasters.

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