AT&T’s Stephenson Says Blocking T-Mobile Deal Will Lead to Higher Prices

AT&T Inc. (T) Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said the blocking of the company’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc. by regulators will lead to higher prices for consumers.

Without T-Mobile, AT&T’s capacity is constrained, Stephenson said last night at an event in New York. Congress has an ill-formed regulatory policy when it comes to wireless carriers, he said.

“Regulators can’t keep up with the changes in the industry,” Stephenson said at a Captains of Industry interview series with Bloomberg News Chief Content Officer Norman Pearlstine at the 92nd Street Y in New York.

The Federal Communications Commission said in a report last month that AT&T had failed to demonstrate the public benefits of the deal, that the purchase of T-Mobile would cause significant job losses and that AT&T would probably build high-speed wireless Internet connections without the merger.

The FCC let Dallas-based AT&T withdraw its application to buy T-Mobile, a deal that would combine the second- and fourth- largest U.S. wireless carriers. The Justice Department sued in August to block the merger as anti-competitive, and a court date is set for February.

The application withdrawal leaves open the possibility that AT&T may again approach the commission with a revised deal, FCC officials have said. Before the report, analysts had said that to gain approval, AT&T might have to give up half of T-Mobile’s customers to ease antitrust concerns and gain control of assets including wireless spectrum.

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