AT&T’s plans to purchase Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile USA will get a thorough examination from government agencies, including antitrust and communications investigators, an FCC aide affirmed on Thursday. AT&T proposed the $39 billion deal on March 20th and a company spokesperson told Bloomberg that Ma Bell plans to file its official application to the Federal Communications Commission “around April 21st.” Once the application has been submitted, the FCC reportedly has 180 days to grant approval. However, one FCC employee told Bloomberg that the FCC isn’t always limited to 180 days, so it could take a bit longer before a final decision is released. The deal has been openly opposed by Sprint, which claimed the transaction would “harm consumers and harm competition at a time when this country can least afford it,” and one anonymous FCC official has said “there’s no way the chairman’s office [will] rubber-stamp” the deal. AT&T’s CEO Randall L. Stephenson sees things differently. On March 30th he said the acquisition will immediately improve reliability for AT&T customers, and argued that there’s plenty of wireless competition in the United States that will continue to help push prices down for consumers. More →
Last week, the FCC ruled in favor of AT&T in a complaint it filed against VoIP home-phone service provider magicJack. For those of you that don’t own a television, magicJack advertises — relentlessly, via infomercial — that its VoIP service will provide unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada for just $19.95 per year. Users are instructed to plug the USB dongle (pictured above) into their computer, connect any touch-tone phone to the dongle’s opposite end, and start dialing. AT&T has, however, taken exception to one way in which the company generates revenue and keeps consumer costs down. The U.S. wireless carrier’s gripe stems from the fact that magicJack, through its subsidiary YMax, has been charging “call termination fees” when its customers make calls to AT&T customers or AT&T owned toll-free numbers. The FCC has rendered a decision, and found that magicJack is not entitled to these fees. “While the ruling applied specifically to Ma Bell, you would think other carriers would follow the ruling and stop paying those same fees to YMax, which as the FCC ruling notes generates basically all of its traffic from magicJack users,” writes Forbes‘ Eric Savitz. The company has yet to publicly comment on the government body’s ruling. In the meantime, hit the jump to check out one of those awesomely bad infomercials we mentioned More →
A new Motorola iDEN phone has just been approved by the Federal Communications Commission. The phone is referred to by two names in FCC documents — the i475 and the i235 — and offers a candybar form factor with a full QWERTY keyboard. As expected, it features push-to-talk support and offers Bluetooth connectivity, 2.5mm headphone jack, camera, speakerphone, and an FM radio. Motorola has yet to officially announce the phone. More →
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has already expressed his concerns about AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telecom, but today Sprint officially announced its opposition to the deal in a press release. Sprint states that the transaction will create a carrier that’s roughly three times its size — in terms of revenue — and “reverse nearly three decades of actions by the U.S. government.” Sprint noted that AT&T and Verizon Wireless would dominate the U.S. wireless postpaid market and be firmly in control of the availability and price of key inputs, such as backhaul, should the deal go through. “Sprint urges the United States government to block this anti-competitive acquisition,” writes Sprint’s senior vice president of government affairs, Vonya McCann “This transaction will harm consumers and harm competition at a time when this country can least afford it.” If it’s any consolation to Sprint, one FCC official believes that the deal won’t be rubber stamped, and could be a “steep climb at least.” Hit the jump to read the full release. More →
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, an anonymous Federal Communications Commission official said “there’s no way the chairman’s office [will] rubber-stamp” AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of Deutsche Telecom-owned T-Mobile USA, and that the approval process will be “a steep climb at least.” The FCC official went on to say that the FCC has not even started to evaluate the deal and that it will be scrutinized and denied or accepted based on whether or not it will be in the best interest of consumers. Similar deals have been doubted before, though, and the WSJ points to the merger between XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite radio, which FCC chairman Kevin Martin said would be a high hurdle to approve back in 2007. Current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Tuesday during his speech at the CTIA Wireless 2011 trade show, which we live blogged, that “healthy competition produces greater innovation and investment, lower prices, and better service.” AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile is seen as likely decreasing the amount of competition in the U.S. wireless market, with just three major carriers competing for customers. But Genachowski has yet to comment on the acquisition proposal. As we said in an earlier editorial, T-Mobile customers could come out on top with this deal — if it ends up being approved. More →
The nation’s third largest wireless provider, Sprint Nextel, has issued a statement to voice its concerns over the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger. “The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile USA, if approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), would alter dramatically the structure of the communications industry,” writes Sprint. “AT&T and Verizon are already by far the largest wireless providers. A combined AT&T and T-Mobile would be almost three times the size of Sprint, the third largest wireless competitor.” The company went on to say that the merged GSM carriers, along with Verizon Wireless, would control nearly 80% of the postpaid wireless market in the United States. AT&T’s CEO, Ralph de la Vega, has said that the deal should be approved by both government bodies based on historical precedence. “I think if the criteria that has been used in the past is used against this merger, I think the appropriate authorities will find there will still be plenty of competition left,” said de la Vega in a statement to Mobilized. Should the merger fall through, AT&T could owe Deutsche Telekom as much as $3 billion. More →
We first heard about the LG Revolution at CES back in January — if you’ll recall it was part of Verizon’s decagon of LTE device announcements. The 4.3-inch handset sports a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, 16GB of internal storage, mobile hotspot capabilities for up to eight devices, Android 2.2, and, of course, a CDMA/LTE radio. Fast forward to today, and we see that the Revolution has finally been rubber stamped by the good folks over at the FCC. Still no word on when this handset will be available to the masses, but it’s always a good sign when a device becomes “street legal.” More →
It looks like the recently announced HTC Merge has been given the U.S. government’s stamp of approval. Spotted at the FCC, the HTC handset has been long rumored to hit Verizon Wireless’ lineup. The extended lag time between the device’s discovery and unveiling — along with the deafening silence in between — led many to believe that the handset had either been scrapped or was being retooled with an LTE radio. Now, thanks to the FCC, we know neither of those things are true. The handset will be hitting “multiple North American carriers” in the near future, sans LTE (bummer). The FCC filing does include the device’s user guide, so if you want to know a little bit more about the Merge, hit the read link and have yourself a look. More →
Life’s a bitch and so is karma, but AT&T is hoping to change that with the Motorola Karma QA1. A goofy looking dumb phone that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Somerset, the Karma is a media-centric device that has home screen access to both Facebook and MySpace as well as support for email, IM, MMS and threaded SMS. In terms of hardware, the quad-band EDGE/dual-band HSDPA Karma packs a sliding QWERTY keypad, 2.5-inch QVGA display, 2 megapixel camera, aGPS, Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, 3.5mm headphone jack and 100MB of internal memory with microSDHC support (up to 16GB). The Karma will be available online and in AT&T stores on the 28th of this month for $79.99 on a 2-year deal after a $50 mail-in rebate. Any takers?
Speaking of the FCC, it looks like the body responsible for radio, TV, cable, satellite and everything in between has been suffering from some serious internal turmoil lately. Kevin Martin, the current FCC Chairman, has allegedly been neglectful with his responsibilities and downright abusive with his handling of affairs. New reports claim that Martin has withheld information from his own commissioners and from Congress, and gave little heed to evidence that some national communications programs were being mismanaged. In fact, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report entitled, “Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission under Kevin J. Martin.” Sounds more like a movie title than a government committee report! An investigation wasn’t even held before the report was released “due to the climate of fear that pervades the FCC… we found that key witnesses were unwilling to testify or even to have their names become known.”
Apparently, Martin has changed his tune since this whole fiasco and is becoming more transparent to both his commissioners and Congress. One would have to imagine it’s because he has no other choice at this point. The only thing we can really hope for, since this affects all of us as gadget lovers and consumers, is that there is some major restructuring coming down the pipe at the FCC. Even though it looks like the current Chairman is shaping up, if these allegations are found to be true it may be too little too late. The new and incoming administration would likely do well to find someone else at this point.