Sprint officially announced its opposition to AT&T’s plan to buy T-Mobile USA on Monday, a merger that would create the largest wireless carrier in the United States.
Officials at the carrier, which would become a very distant third-place competitor to the new company and Verizon, said they would lobby hard against the merger.
“Sprint urges the United States government to block this anti-competitive acquisition,” Vonya McCann, Sprint’s senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement. “This transaction will harm consumers and harm competition at a time when this country can least afford it. So on behalf of our customers, our industry, and our country, Sprint will fight this attempt by AT&T to undo the progress of the past 25 years and create a new Ma Bell duopoly.”
CEO Dan Hesse criticized the merger shortly after AT&T announced the plan. In calls to reporters on Monday, Sprint executives argued that the proposed merger is not about big companies, but about consumers. Sprint vice president for government affairs Bill Barloon said his team would be “very active” on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission.
“We will be working with like-minded groups to create an environment where this merger can’t be approved,” Barloon said in an interview. “It is not hard to get people to work together on this.” Barloon said he is optimistic about lobbying efforts in Congress, and Trey Hanbury, Sprint’s director of government affairs, said he expects bipartisan concern about the merger at the FCC. “All of our other advocacy issues pale compared to this,” Barloon said.
AT&T executive Jim Cicconi defended his company’s plans and said the merger is “very much” in the interest of consumers. “With regard to Sprint’s recent statements about our transaction, we have always found that the most constructive course is to focus on our own strategies for serving our customers and building our business rather than becoming distracted by challenging the business strategies of others,” Cicconi said in a statement responding to Sprint on Monday.
And the merger may have long-term effects on Sprint well beyond its Washington lobbying efforts. One obvious move to many experts and analysts is a Verizon-Sprint merger, and on Monday analysts at Town Hall Investment Research said they “believe that Verizon will eventually decide to purchase Sprint and that Sprint will recognize that such a move will be in the best interests of its shareholders.”
Whatever the future holds for Sprint, wrote Town Hall analyst Jamie Townsend, the company’s “fundamental position became dramatically worse with the AT&T/T-Mobile deal and will require the company to make a major operating decision going forward.”