updated 01:35 pm EDT, Thu March 24, 2011
Clearwire CEO objects to ATT T-Mobile merger
Clearwire's new chief John Stanton in an interview Thursday voiced his objection to the proposed AT&T buyout of T-Mobile. He cast the company's potential 79 percent control of subscription customers in the US as a "huge challenge to competition." Device exclusivity was already a problem with AT&T, such as its recently ended iPhone exclusive, and could only get worse if the carrier had that much more clout, the CEO told the WSJ.
The iPhone deal ended up "stepping on the air hose of T-Mobile" by denying that carrier a fair chance at one of the more popular devices on the network, Stanton said. Customers on T-Mobile so far will only have their first chance at an official iPhone if the merger is approved.
Clearwire was directly impacted by the proposed AT&T takeover as it was rumored to be selling spectrum to T-Mobile to help get out of debt and fund its WiMAX network expansion. Stanton wanted to avoid an "ugly" bankruptcy that ceded control but now had to once again focus on Sprint for help.
AT&T has maintained that the merger would be a net positive by improving capacity for both of the joining carriers. It would also give T-Mobile users a clearer route to LTE-based 4G instead of 42Mbps or 84Mbps 3G. Clearwire's partner Sprint, however, publicly lambasted AT&T at the CTIA spring keynote, arguing it would put far too much power in one carrier's hands.
FCC officials may end up siding with Clearwire, Sprint, and other competitors. At least one agency worker has already said it would likely change with either conditions or, in the most extreme case, a rejection. AT&T is confident it will go through but has budgeted in a year to get approval and close the takeover.