AT&T says it’s still on track to get its merger with T-Mobile approved by March 2012, even as state utilities, business partners and consumer interest groups express concern about the deal.
In a meeting with reporters in Washington, AT&T General Counsel Wayne Watts said the company has provided a second round of information requested by the Justice Department. He said meetings with the Federal Communications Commission are also going as scheduled.
“The number one question I get from investors is can we get (the deal) done,” Watt said. “I think we can.”
He rejected arguments that merger approval should include a stipulation that AT&T stop exclusive contracts with handset makers. It’s two-year exclusive contract with Apple was the main reason behind its smartphone success, the company has said.
Sprint Nextel and regional carriers have argued that the practice has prevented them from attracting customers as quickly as AT&T and Verizon, which also has a deal to carry the iPhone.
But Watts, who has worked on more than a dozen mergers involving AT&T in about three decades, said there is plenty of handset competition.
In recent weeks, resistance to the merger has grown.
The California Public Utilities Commission hasn’t opposed the deal outright, but has decided to conduct a rare investigation of the transaction’s affect on consumers.
New York’s attorney general is investigating the deal and last week the the state’s Public Service Commission said in comments to the FCC that the merger failed to pass two tests to ensure it would result in adequate wireless industry competition.
“Both the market concentration and spectrum aggregation screening tools indicate the proposed merger may have anticompetitive impacts, and that these anticompetitive impacts will be felt, in particular, in New York State,” the commission wrote. “Therefore, the FCC should carefully scrutinize the potential impacts of the proposed merger on New York State’s wireless voice and broadband markets.”
AT&T and T-Mobile have also received support for their deal.
Facebook Microsoft and Silverlake Partners say the deal helps their businesses because it would bring more robust networks to more consumers. More than 20 governors have written the FCC in support.
Arizona’s public utitilities commission scrutinized the deal and voted in approval.