On Thursday, AT&T will file its $39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile with the Federal Communications Commission.
As regulators review the acquisition, a process that could take a year or more, it's time to sit back and watch the fireworks as AT&T squares off with public interest groups (who claim the deal, which would consolidate 80 percent of the wireless market at one company, will cause wireless rates to skyrocket) and Sprint, which gets moved down on the market totem pole to a distant number three.
For a preview of what's to come in what will undoubtedly be a viciously fought war of words in the press, check out the first volley of comments, set off last week by Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, who said in a speech that the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would "stifle competition" and threaten wireless innovation.
Firing back from his company's blog, AT&T's Jim Cicconi accused Hesse of reversing himself on competition in the wireless business. "Given that Sprint is a major competitor to AT&T in the hypercompetitive wireless market Mr. Hesse describes, no one should be surprised that they would oppose this merger," Cicconi said. "But it is self-serving for them to argue that the highly competitive wireless market they cited only months ago is now threatened by the very type of transaction they seemed prepared to defend previously."
The DOJ already has AT&T's filing, and the FCC jump-started its review last week. Now the real fun begins.