Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FCC Holds AT&T's Feet to the Fire

Recently AT&T and Centennial Wireless officials (and lawyers) hiked over to the FCC to find out what the holdup was for their acquisition application. On September 25th, the FCC had sent them a rather terse request for information about the transaction. In that request, the FCC asked well over '20 questions' related to the deal. Here is a small sampling of those questions:
  • Please provide AT&T’s equity interest in America Móvil and in Telmex.
  • Please provide additional detail on whether the handsets of Centennial’s customers will function on AT&T’s GSM network in the continental United States immediately following the transaction, as well as at each stage of the transition of integrating the AT&T and Centennial networks.
  • Will Centennial’s customers be required to obtain new handsets or Subscriber Information Module (“SIM”) cards?
  • If Centennial’s customers will require either new handsets or SIM cards, will these be provided either free of charge or at a significantly reduced price?
  • If new handsets will need to be provided, please detail the exchange process including the type of handset offerings and prices for these handsets. Please provide additional detail on AT&T’s integration planning process and its impact on existing Centennial customers in the continental United States.
  • The Rural Cellular Association and Cincinnati Bell propose that the Commission adopt conditions on roaming in this transaction that are similar to the ones that the Commission imposed in the Verizon-Alltel transaction. Please explain whether the roaming conditions in the Verizon-Alltel Order are or are not appropriate for the AT&T/Centennial transaction.
  • Centennial has deployed a 2G GSM network in the continental U.S. and a 3G CDMA network in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For what services does Centennial providing roaming in the continental U.S.?

This is from the first 6 paragraphs of over 19, most of which refer to the relationship of AT&T and Mexico telecoms. AT&T quickly responded to the inquisition last Friday, but their response may not be made public due to "confidentiality."

It looks like the FCC is more concerned about AT&T's relationship to Mexico companies, and network integration in the Caribbean, and less how the transaction will affect US wireless customers or roaming. We're a bit surprised that AT&T didn't make it clear early on if Centennial customers will be able to use their existing phones. But AT&T stated, "the integration planning process is in its preliminary stages, and there are numerous contingencies that could affect any network integration schedule." Does that mean they hadn't thought about it, yet?

AT&T left the door open for protesters like Cincinnati Bell and the Rural Cellular Association to challenge the deal. No wonder the FCC is taking their time.

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