NEW YORK — AT&T Inc. on Friday asked a court to eject rival Sprint Nextel Corp. from the process that looks at whether AT&T should be allowed to buy T-Mobile USA.
Sprint, the nation's third-largest cellphone company, and a smaller phone company, C Spire Wireless (known as Cellular South until last Monday), both want to be parallel participants in the Justice Department's suit against AT&T's acquisition on antitrust grounds. Participating would give them a chance to affect the proceedings, even if the Justice Department is the most important objector to the deal.
AT&T filed a motion Friday to have the complaints by the two phone companies dismissed, saying Sprint and C Spire are speaking in their own interests, not the public's.
Sprint said AT&T's motion is without merit, and it will respond next week.
AT&T, the No. 2 cellphone carrier in the United States, announced in March its $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA, the No. 4 carrier, with a view to closing it early next year. The Justice Department filed suit to stop the deal a month ago in U.S. District Court in Washington, saying it would concentrate too much market power in one company, leading to higher prices for consumers.
AT&T says the deal will allow it to better serve customers and expand its wireless network.
Several states have joined the suit. Puerto Rico joined on Friday.
AT&T on Friday said Sprint has "spoken disingenuously" about its motives for the merger, and has suggested that Sprint be allowed to buy T-Mobile USA. C Spire has suggested that it would not oppose the merger if AT&T agreed to use its network in Mississippi and surrounding states, C Spire's home territory.
"Such an extraordinary and inappropriate proposal simply confirms that what Cellular South fears is competition, not an alleged lack of competition," AT&T said.
"Today's motion will provide us with another good opportunity to demonstrate why AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile is blatantly anticompetitive," said Eric Graham, C Spire's vice president for strategic and government relations.
AT&T shares fell 32 cents to close at $28.52 in trading Friday.