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Tuesday, September 06, 2011, 03:09 pm PT (06:09 pm ET)

AT&T says Sprint suit to block T-Mobile deal is not about maintaining competition

AT&T has fired back in the salvo between top US mobile carriers, accusing Sprint of seeking to block the deal just to protect its own interests, while defending the merger as a win-win for consumers.

In a statement defending the $39 billion deal, AT&T said, "This simply demonstrates what we’ve said all along – Sprint is more interested in protecting itself than it is in promoting competition that benefits consumers.

"We of course will vigorously contest this matter in court as AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile USA will: help solve our nation’s spectrum exhaust situation and improve wireless service for millions; allow AT&T to expand 4G LTE mobile broadband to another 55 million Americans, or 97% of the population; and result in billions of additional investment and tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when our nation needs them most."

Sprint has most recently cited iPhone exclusivity as an example of how big carriers could push smaller rivals out of the game. However, Sprint is expected to carry the IPhone later this fall, so Sprint's efforts to block the deal could only have the reverse effect of depriving an independent T-Mobile from selling the popular smartphone.

Blogger John Gruber of the Daring Fireball cited Sprint's merger objection related to its inability to carry the iPhone as a "tacit admission from Sprint that it is at a competitive disadvantage without the iPhone."

Gruber added, "seems obvious to me, of course, and probably to most regular DF readers. But how do the Android supporters who insist that Android is 'winning' square that belief with this?"