FCC halts AT&T's acquisition of Qualcomm spectrum, bundles it with T-Mobile merger review

AT&T's LTE spectrum acquisitions just hit a minor bump in the federal road. In a recently released FCC statement, Wireless Bureau chief Rick Kaplan announced the decision to stop the 180 day review clock on the telco's proposed takeover of Qualcomm's 700MHz spectrum. The $1.9 billion deal, inked last December, isn't getting the regulatory axe, but due to a "number of related issues" concerning spectrum overlap with the still unapproved T-Mobile merger, the commission is bundling the two into one future review. Maybe it's time the carrier's industry backers pen another letter of support to Chairman Genachowski.

Update: Qualcomm's VP of Government Affairs Dean Brenner reached out to us with an official statement you can read after the break.

The FCC should approve the pending AT&T-Qualcomm spectrum sale now because of the clear benefits to the public from the sale that stand on their own and are totally unrelated to the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger. Approval now will foster the public policies that the FCC correctly deems so vital for the American public. Approval now will re-purpose unused 700 MHz unpaired spectrum for mobile broadband, thereby easing America's spectrum crunch and helping to meet the FCC's goal of reallocating 300 MHz for mobile broadband over the next five years. Approval now will also allow Qualcomm to invest in a new, spectrally efficient technology (supplemental downlink) and enable the first worldwide deployment to occur in the U.S., thereby fostering U.S. economic growth and job creation and enhancing U.S. global leadership in wireless technology.

Update 2: And we have AT&T's response to the FCC decision.

We believe the Qualcomm transaction stands on its own merits. We are pleased that the Commission has rejected calls to officially consolidate the two deals and has expressly preserved the ability for the Qualcomm application to be resolved in advance of the T-Mobile application. We remain confident that the FCC will approve the license transfers as consistent with the public interest.

Update 3: Sprint's SVP of Government Affairs Vonya B. McCann has also provided us with a statement.

When AT&T announced its proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile in March, the Federal Communications Commission was already reviewing AT&T's $1.9 billion offer for Qualcomm's 700 MHz spectrum, which AT&T had announced just three months earlier. Given the complexity of the regulatory review of both proposed transactions, it's a reasonable step for the FCC to coordinate the two reviews. The proposed transactions would produce game-changing effects on consumers and on competition in the wireless market. Over the next few months, we look forward to working with the FCC and other interested parties as the FCC conducts a coordinated review of the two transactions. Such a review makes abundant good sense and clearly is in the public interest.