When AT&T announced its plans to buy Bellsouth, we noted that consumer groups seemed to be focusing in on Cingular as an anti-trust issue, which made little sense. There is healthy competition in the mobile space, and spinning the company off wouldn't really impact the competitive balance in any way. The latest tactic, though, is equally odd. A consumer group is asking the US Senate not to sell AT&T any more spectrum, claiming that the company will be in a dominant position to bundle a variety of services, priced in a way that no other competitor can match. Now, it's good to watch out for the potential of AT&T to become a monopoly, but it's not at all clear how spectrum really matters here. It's not about the bundle of services, but all about the pipe. If you have a big enough connection, than you can bundle whatever services you want -- so the argument that no one can compete doesn't ring true. Most areas have quite a bit of competition from mobile operators (unlike wired broadband), and it's difficult to see how stopping AT&T from buying more spectrum for Cingular changes this equation, other than slowing down Cingular's ability to build out its next generation network -- which is already far behind Sprint and Verizon Wireless.
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