The Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit today to block AT&T’s $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile, attempting to abort the marriage of the first and fourth largest mobile carriers in the nation, respectively. AT&T was hoping to acquire T-Mobile’s spectrum (i.e. the bandwidth that mobile data travels on), which would help AT&T improve its notoriously spotty network.
Bloomberg broke the news: “AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low- priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market,” wrote the DOJ.
AT&T feigned surprise: “We have met repeatedly with the Department of Justice and there was no indication from the DOJ that this action was being contemplated,” Wayne Watts, AT&T’s general counsel, said in a statement. “We plan to ask for an expedited hearing so the enormous benefits of this merger can be fully reviewed.”
Number three player Sprint, meanwhile, applauded the move. “The DOJ today delivered a decisive victory for consumers, competition and our country. By filing suit to block AT&T’s proposed takeover of T-Mobile, the DOJ has put consumers’ interests first. Sprint applauds the DOJ for conducting a careful and thorough review and for reaching a just decision – one which will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of a competitive U.S. wireless industry. Contrary to AT&T’s assertions, today’s action will preserve American jobs, strengthen the American economy, and encourage innovation.”
A win for consumers, ironically, is also a loss for consumers. More competition might mean cheaper prices, but also worse service, for the tens of million of Americans on AT&T.