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AT&T CEO: T-Mobile Flop One of His 'Worst Moments'

By Craig Galbraith
February 11, 2013 - News

The drive to acquire spectrum was largely behind AT&T's pursuit of T-Mobile USA in a failed merger attempt one year ago.

Commenting on a variety of topics at a telecom conference in the Denver area over the weekend, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that when he realized the fight from federal regulators was going to be too difficult to overcome, he suffered one of his "worst moments."

In what was going to be one of the biggest mergers in telecom history, AT&T in 2011 announced its intention to buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion. Not long after, the Justice Department sued to stop the deal and the Federal Communications Commission indicated that it, too, would challenge it, citing a lack of competition that would potentially be created by a duopoly of power in the industry (AT&T and Verizon Wireless). AT&T eventually gave up on the attempted acquisition.

Stephenson touched on a variety of other topics at the event, including DISH Network's desire to offer its customers wireless service. DISH is making a bid for spectrum-rich Clearwire. Sprint has also made a move for the Washington state-based broadband provider.

There's been plenty of speculation over the past couple of years that AT&T would pursue an acquisition of DISH. While Stephenson said nothing about this, he was at least coy about what he thinks of DISH's efforts to buy Clearwire.

"[DISH CEO Charlie Ergen] fired off his first satellite without insurance ... who knows what Charlie will do?" Stephenson told conference attendees, according to the Denver Business Journal.

Stephenson predicted that DISH will wind up partnering with an existing wireless partner rather than building a network from ground up.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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