updated 07:40 pm EDT, Wed November 2, 2011
ATT asks court to require Sprint competition plans
AT&T retaliated against Sprint's attempt to get corporate documents in a Department of Justice lawsuit on Wednesday through a court request that would potentially force Sprint hand over its own information. The larger carrier's motion to compel would require that Sprint hand over documents on 47 areas explaining how it planned to compete whether or not AT&T's merger with T-Mobile was approved. The request would ask for some of Sprint's most confidential information, including possible discussion of a Sprint buyout of T-Mobile should AT&T be rejected.
The motion would also have Sprint relay what it planned to do even if the merger went ahead. It's unclear what defense this would offer AT&T, which if successful could be over three times larger than Sprint. The move would, however, give AT&T a further advantage post-merger by letting it know exactly how to counter whatever steps Sprint took to shore up and possibly regain share.
AT&T's attorney Steven Benz spun Sprint's relative position in the market, calling it a "strong and vibrant" competitor despite losing hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter. Sprint has warned that its LTE expansion might require outside funding and that its iPhone deal won't be profitable until as late as 2015.
AT&T did agree that as many 17 of the points of data it wanted would already be met by data Sprint had given to the DOJ. Sprint in its response still called the demands "overlapping" and a burden that needed to be lifted.
The DOJ sued AT&T in August after it concluded that the buyout of T-Mobile would be anti-competitive and that there were no reasonable concessions that could avoid market problems. Both the DOJ and the FCC need to sign off on the deal, and it's informally believed that the FCC currently sides with its government counterpart's view that the merger must be blocked.