Last we heard, the trial between the U.S. Department of Justice and AT&T was set to kick off in the middle of February. However, that may soon change if the Justice Department gets its way. Today the DOJ told the judge overseeing the case that it would like to postpone the trial by asking for a stay in the case, or possibly withdraw its case altogether, until AT&T and T-Mobile reapply for approval with the FCC. The DOJ argued that AT&T yanking its FCC application removed the need for an expedited trial. Judge Ellen Huvelle told AT&T that its removal of the FCC application frustrated her and that she may not be willing to move the the case forward as urgently as she may have before. Huvelle also voiced her concerns about AT&T and T-Mobile altering their deal before reapplying to the FCC, telling the companies that they "could change the deal in a month and everybody's time will be wasted." Unsurprisingly, AT&T wants the trial to go on in February as planned, claiming that it's "not playing some strategic game."
Keeping up with the AT&T-Mobile news, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has claimed that denying the merger of the two companies will lead to higher prices for consumers. The price hike will be caused by capacity constraints, Stephenson said, an issue that could be avoided should AT&T and T-Mobile be allowed to combine.
When AT&T originally announced its intention to acquire T-Mobile, it said that it expected the deal to be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2012. That date recently got pushed back, though, as AT&T changed its expected completion date to the end of the first half of next year. If the Justice Department does end up applying to delay its case, not only could the deal's expected finish date be pushed even deeper into 2012, but it could also put more strain on the merger and make it more difficult for it to be completed at all. Judge Huvelle has asked the DOJ to file its motion by next Tuesday and set another hearing set for Thursday, so the good news is that we don't have to wait long for more to unravel. Stay tuned!