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9/26/2008
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Wireless Mergers Top FCC's To-Do List

The Verizon-Alltel and Sprint-Clearwire mergers will be reviewed by the end of the year, the FCC said.

With a new administration set to take office in January, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said Thursday the agency will try to finish its reviews of two major wireless mergers by the end of the year.

In May, Sprint purchased a 51% stake in a new Clearwire in an effort to deploy a nationwide WiMax network. The partnership also has billions of dollars of investment from Google, Comcast, Intel, Time Warner, and other industry heavyweights.

The Clearwire merger has faced some opposition from AT&T and the Rural Cellular Association, which claimed the deal has faced less scrutiny than previous ones.

"While AT&T does not fundamentally oppose the underlying transactions, the regulatory process must be consistent for all entrants, including new Clearwire, and regulatory parity therefore requires an examination of the reformed company's spectrum aggregation," AT&T stated in a petition filed with the FCC in July.

Despite the opposition, executives from Clearwire and Sprint remain confident that the merger will go through.

"We believe everything is still on track for a fourth-quarter closing and everything is moving right along," John Butler, Clearwire's CFO told investors at a conference earlier this month.

Additionally, the agency will kick its review of the Verizon-Alltel acquisition into high gear.

In May, Verizon purchased Alltel for about $28 billion, which would make Verizon Wireless the largest U.S. carrier with nearly 80 million subscribers. Current leader AT&T has 71.4 million subscribers, according to its last quarterly report.

An issue with coverage areas could potentially lead to a snag, but Verizon is already in the process of selling its 85 overlapping cellular properties.

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