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Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 06:50 pm PT (09:50 pm ET)

Sprint formally petitions AT&T, T-Mobile merger with FCC

Sprint has filed a formal petition with the Federal Communications Commission protesting AT&T's $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, accusing the carrier of wasting its spectrum and taking a shortcut by purchasing T-Mobile.

The third largest wireless carrier in the U.S. added to its official opposition to the deal on Tuesday by filing a "petition to deny" against AT&T's FCC request to acquire T-Mobile's U.S. spectrum licenses. AT&T and T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom first announced the merger in March.

Forbes reports that Sprint's 377-page document characterizes AT&T as "willingly naïve" about the wireless industry, comparing the carrier to "Alice in Wonderland." Sprint argues that since AT&T owns the most wireless spectrum of any U.S. carrier, it shouldn't need T-Mobile's spectrum.

According to sources close to Sprint, "AT&T’s desire for more spectrum while it is “sitting” on available spectrum is “absurd,” and shows that the company has an outdated, arrogant view of the business," the report noted.

The filing breaks down the spectrum gap in a section titled "Not all spectrum is created equal." According to Sprint, AT&T has an average of 40 megahertz of unused spectrum nationwide, with spectrum in all the "core" bands in the U.S.

Sprint's petition also includes a "technology declaration" from industry expert. The declaration accuses AT&T of inadequate investment in its network and not making the best of its spectrum. "AT&T wants to catch up by taking a shortcut - namely, by acquiring T-Mobile," the report noted the experts as saying.

Last week, the FCC sent a list of questions to AT&T, specifically regarding its use of its own wireless spectrum and why it believes it needs T-Mobile's spectrum to meet its goals for 4G. An FCC official has said that AT&T will have a tough time convincing the commission's chairman to sign off on the deal.

The U.S. Senate held a Judiciary subcommittee hearing earlier this month to discuss the merger. During the hearing, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse called for Congress to "just say no to this takeover."

Sprint contends that the deal would raise prices for smaller carriers as the resulting duopoly of AT&T and Verizon would control pricing for traffic backhaul and roaming agreements.

AT&T will have until June 10 to reply to Sprint's petition, while interested parties can file opinions with the FCC until June 20. T-Mobile and AT&T's responses to the FCC's questions are also due on June 10.