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AT&T, T-Mobile Deal: AT&T Wants Judge To Throw Out Sprint's Antitrust Suit

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Executives at AT&T attend a news conference where it was announced that AT&T Inc. will be buying its wireless rival T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG for $39 billion in cash and stock on March 21, 2011 in New York City. The deal, which will be scrutinized by U.S. regulators, would create the nation's largest wireless carrier if approved. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) | Getty File

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.

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