FCC approves AT&T / Qualcomm deal days after failed T-Mobile acquisition

By on December 23, 2011, 10:30 AM

The Federal Communications Commission has approved a deal between AT&T and Qualcomm just days after AT&T threw in the towel on a proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. AT&T will obtain $1.9 billion worth of much-needed airwave licenses from the agreement.

The FCC passed the proposal by a vote of 3 to 1; the only disagreeing vote came from commissioner Michael Copps. In a statement on the matter, Copps said he could be persuaded to change his vote if certain pro-consumer conditions were met. As-is, however, he feels that the deal falls short of advancing the public interest demand and expressed concern about providing more spectrum to one of the two largest providers in the US. Copps has served on the FCC board for 10 years and coincidentally will be retiring at the end of the month.

For AT&T, the deal is good news as the company has been struggling with network congestion from smartphones and now tablet data access. AT&T was the first to carry the iPhone which in large part likely led to some networks, specifically those in large cities like New York, being overwhelmed.

One of the main reasons that AT&T wanted to acquire T-Mobile was to utilize the company’s airwaves. That deal, however, ultimately fell through earlier this week when AT&T officially pulled out of the $39 billion purchase amidst pressure from the FCC and the Justice Department. AT&T had to write off $4 billion to T-Mobile as per the original agreement if the deal were to falter.

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