The Justice Department may have filed suit against the transfer of spectrum from T-Mobile to AT&T on competition grounds, but it apparently has no problem with the transfer of spectrum from AT&T to T-Mobile as part of the break-up fee over that deal, which Justice helped squelch.The Federal Trade Commission’s “early termination” list Friday, which is a list of deals over a certain floor price that neither Justice nor the FTC have competition issues with, included an entry for Deutsche Telecom/AT&T/T-Mobile.
The early termination is not the deal’s termination, but the end of antitrust review with the signal that it is OK from that standpoint. while neither the FTC nor Justice would confirm the notice referred to the spectrum deal–only names are released–parties involved indicated it was the break-up fee’s spectrum transfer, which also is being vetted by the FCC.
AT&T had to pay $3 billion in cash and give up some spectrum as part of its agreement with T-Mobile if the deal fell through. The deal was withdrawn after Justice filed suit and the FCC said it was forwarding it to an FCC judge for hearing, the signal it, too, opposed the deal.
The FCC has not yet weighed in on the license transfer, with comments still coming in this month. The FCC’s review goes beyond antitrust to look at the public interest pros amd cons. Given that the spectrum is going from a larger to a smaller player, the FCC could well follow suit this time as well and give its thumbs up. The Commission has been trying to promote price and service competition in the wireless space.