FCC report dodges answers on wireless industry competition

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday released its annual report on whether the wireless industry is competitive enough, but anyone looking for answers that could determine the fate of AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile will be left wanting.

The FCC said in its 15th annual report that it didn’t make a “formal finding as to whether there is, or is not, effective competition in the industry.”

“Rather, given the complexity of the various inter-related segments and services within the mobile wireless ecosystem, the report focuses on presenting the best data available on competition throughout this sector of the economy and highlighting several key trends in the mobile wireless industry,” according to the executive summary of the report.

This reporter is still reading through the lengthy study and will update as necessary.

But the report so far looks like it can’t be used as an indication of the agency’s thinking about whether there needs to be more competition in the industry — only that it wasn’t able to say there wasn’t enough evidence to definitively say so. That was the same finding in the last report.

But that leaves lots of wiggle room for interpretation.

AT&T and T-Mobile say there is plenty of competition in the industry and that the FCC and Justice Department should consider their analysis on a market-by-market basis. They point to newcomers like Metro PCS and Leap Wireless as vibrant upstarts.

Sprint Nextel, Leap and rural carriers like Cellular South all disagree. They say the merger would lead to a duopoly in the industry with Verizon Wireless and AT&T controlling more than eight out of 10 wireless subscriptions.

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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