The Consumer Electronics Association is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to wrap up its deliberations of AT&T's proposed merger with T-Mobile USA before the end of the year, saying that dragging it out longer would create too much uncertainty for businesses that rely on the wireless services provided by the two firms.
CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said his group is not taking a position on whether the mergers should be approved, noting that both AT&T and T-Mobile are CEA members.
"Rather, we urge the commission to decide the merger's fate in 2011," he wrote in a letter to the FCC. "Delay beyond this calendar year is unreasonable and puts the companies, their competitors and consumers in limbo and serves no countervailing interest."
Many stakeholders have said the review of the merger, which is being examined by both the FCC and the Justice Department, could take as long as a year, which would put it into early 2012. Many point to the FCC's review of the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, which took more than a year before it was approved with conditions in January.
"In the AT&T/T-Mobile situation, a fixed and preferably short period of consideration is especially important given the national importance of wireless spectrum and the role that ubiquitous broadband plays in our national innovation strategy, including the rapidly evolving demands for wireless use for everything from health care to education," Shapiro wrote.
"Accordingly, CEA appropriately asks our government to use a 21st century timetable rather than one from last century, even recognizing the ambiguities in the law that the commission must use to assess the proposed merger."
The merger has generated intense lobbying on both sides, with more than 38,000 comments so far to the FCC.
Supporters say combining the No. 2 wireless provider AT&T with No. 4 T-Mobile USA will help provide a short-term solution to the nation's growing demand for spectrum for wireless services. Critics argue that if regulators approve the deal, it will likely lead to further consolidation in the wireless industry, which will stifle innovation and drive up prices for consumers.