Last Thursday, AT&T unintentionally leaked a filing made with the FCC discussing in detail some of the finer points of their argument for merging with T-Mobile. While many of the statements easily viewed (though the document is lengthy) on this redacted version aren’t news, one particular point has fallen under scrutiny and led many to believe that AT&T’s intentions aren’t quite what they claim.
Slightly more context is necessary before this point has much gravity. In most of the arguments made in AT&T’s appeals to the FCC encouraging their merger with T-Mo, they state that LTE deployment is slow and the latter’s network and spectrum can help bolster their own to accelerate coverage. Much of this coverage would be made available to rural areas, considering the fact that AT&T’s original plans supported 80% of the population and these more optimistic ones claim 97%. Rural coverage is crucial to this deal due to the fact that government has recently strongly supported nationwide broadband and their capacity to handle that first-hand is a far cry from previous success with telecommunications.
The merger between these two colossal carriers would cost AT&T approximately $39 billion, which they claim is worth it for the broad revenue channels the smaller company could provide. This chief issue, however, has been revealed to cost a much less substantial $3.8 billion if the merger doesn’t go through. While AT&T have since claimed that the revenue benefits more than justify this exchange, the simple fact that 97% LTE deployment is well within the company’s reach sans T-Mobile may prove to be a crippling factor when dealing with the FCC. The Federal Communications Commission’s job is to determine whether or not the advantages of mergers like this outweigh the distinct disadvantages of elimination of competition. In a market as competitive and cornered by few superpowers as this, a slip-up as small as a leaked filing could make all the difference.