AT&T (NYSE: T) has defended its $39 billion proposed acquisition of T-Mobile by claiming that it needs T-Mobile’s wireless spectrum in order to build a truly national 4G wireless network. The Federal Communications Commission has decided that if that’s the case, that it better review AT&T’s proposed acquisition of wireless spectrum from Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM) in concert with the merger proposal.
In a letter to AT&T and Qualcomm that was posted on the FCC’s site (PDF), the FCC’s Rick Kaplan informs the two companies that their deal will be attached to the T-Mobile question because of the role spectrum (or supposed lack thereof) plays in the merger proposal. “The Commission’s ongoing review has confirmed that the proposed transactions raise a number of related issues, including, but not limited to, questions regarding AT&T’s aggregation of spectrum throughout the nation, particularly in overlapping areas,” Kaplan wrote.
The move means that the FCC has stopped the “180-day informal clock” that it uses to put a general timeframe on regulatory decisions. AT&T and Qualcomm first reached a deal last December to swap the wireless spectrum Qualcomm was hoping to use for the ill-fated Flo TV project in exchange for $1.93 billion of AT&T’s pocket change, but that obviously has yet to happen.
And with the T-Mobile review expected to stretch out into 2012, it’s clear that AT&T is going to have to wait quite a while should it want to see either of these deals become reality.