When AT&T first announced its plans to acquire T-Mobile, everyone from the companies involved to industry pundits seemed convinced the deal would go through. Even in the face of voices calling the move anti-competitive, the prevailing belief seemed to be that there was too much money involved and support from large corporations for it not to just shove its way through the FCC and become a reality. Month after month, though, the tide slowly started changing against the merger, attracting new opposition in the form of a Department of Justice lawsuit. Optimism towards the purchase going through feels like it’s at an all-time low, and now the FCC has thrown another wrench in the works, revealing its intent to put the deal up to an administrative hearing.
The FCC would only hold such a hearing if the purchase overcomes the DoJ opposition it’s currently facing. In that circumstance, the FCC would require AT&T to make its case as to why this merger, and the apparent effective duopoly it would create, would be in the public interest. Initial reports show strong support within the FCC for undertaking this step, suggesting it’s a very likely possibility in the event AT&T triumphs against its first-round lawsuit.
We’re still a long way off from the deal’s fate being decided in either direction, but if its current trajectory plays out, T-Mobile had better start re-thinking its plans for the future.