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FCC queries AT & T on LTE pledge

Thu, 08/25/2011 - 8:10am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The FCC wants AT&T to answer some more questions about its promise to expand its LTE footprint into more rural areas if regulators approve its merger with T-Mobile USA.

AT&T's pledge to deploy the high-speed mobile broadband network to 55 million additional U.S. residents in rural and underserved areas of the country has played a key role in drumming up support for the deal from consumer groups and politicians.

Now the FCC asked the company to explain its reasoning. AT&T has said it will be more cost-efficient to roll out LTE in less populated areas if its acquisition of T-Mobile goes through.

The regulator sent a letter to AT&T yesterday requesting documentation for its claims, including estimates on changes in cost, revenue and profitability associated with its business case for expanding its LTE footprint post-merger.

"Although AT&T has stated that it has not quantified the transaction-related changes in the business case for extending its LTE footprint, we ask that you supplement your filing with any documents or analyses explaining why the changes in cost, revenue and/or profitability are likely to be large enough to change the overall business case for the additional deployment," FCC Senior Counsel Renata Hesse wrote.

AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris characterized the information request as a routine matter and said the company would comply with the FCC's request.

"Requests from the FCC staff for additional information are to be expected given the detailed review they are undertaking," he said.

It will cost AT&T $3.8 billion to make good on its promise to expand its LTE footprint if the T-Mobile deal passes, according to confidential information accidentally left in documents filed with the FCC earlier this month.

The operator's first LTE plan covered 80 percent of the U.S. population. AT&T says it will expand the network to cover 97 percent of Americans if the FCC and Department of Justice approve its buyout of T-Mobile.

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