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AT&T Launches Upgrade Website as Lawsuit Blocks Merger With T-Mobile

AT&T recently launched "Focus: St. Louis" to show customers how it is improving wireless coverage, especially if allowed to merge with T-Mobile. That merger, however, is being blocked by an antitrust suit.

AT&T has launched a new website called Focus: St. Louis that gives its customers the ability to see upgrades to their wireless system on a city by city basis. AT&T said the site is first for the industry.

In addition to showing system upgrades, the site shows AT&T WI-FI hotspots and the locations of AT&T stores. Focus: St. Louis is one of eight hyper-local sites across the nation. Atlanta; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Kansas City; Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL; Miami-Fort Lauderdale; Indianapolis; and Philadelphia also have Focus sites for their areas.

The upgrades displayed currently for the Town and County-Manchester Patch are two connection upgrades in Manchester and two connection upgrades plus a capacity upgrade for Town and Country. The site currently lists 628 such upgrades in the St. Louis metro area since January 2011. A spokesperson for AT&T said that site would be updated each week.

PCWorld noted that the Focus sites also serve as an advertisement for AT&T’s planned merger with T-Mobile. A link on the site takes visitors to a map that visually shows how AT&T’s wireless coverage would expand in Missouri if allowed to merge with T-Mobile. Missouri’s metro areas area is already well covered by AT&T services—most improvements would be in rural areas.

However, that merger is currently being blocked by the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed an antitrust lawsuit on Aug. 31.

If allowed to merge, the new company would be the largest wireless provider in the nation.

“In order to ensure that competition remains and that everyone—including consumers, businesses and the government—continues to receive high quality, competitively priced mobile wireless products and services, the Department of Justice today filed an antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. to block AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole in a press conference Aug. 31.

If allowed to merge, there would only be three remaining nationwide mobile phone companies: AT&T, Sprint Nextel and Verizon. Cole said that competition would be diminished between the remaining three on price, quality and innovation.

Accord to Bloomberg, AT&T has the proper incentive to fight the antitrust suit in court. If AT&T's plan to buy T-Mobile from its parent company Deutsche Telekom does not go through, it will have to pay Deutsche Telekom a cancellation fee of $3 billion in cash and give T-Mobile USA wireless spectrum and reduced charges for calls using the AT&T network. The total penalty could cost as much as $7 billion.

On Sept. 6, Sprint joined the fight against its competitor’s merger. A press release from the company stated one of the reasons it is opposed to the merger is because of  the damage it would cause to other carriers.

“If the transaction were to be allowed, a combined AT&T and T-Mobile would have the ability to use its control over backhaul, roaming and spectrum, and its increased market position to exclude competitors, raise their costs, restrict their access to handsets, damage their businesses and ultimately to lessen competition,” Sprint officials said.

On the Horizon: 

  • Gateway to Recovery is a free job fair sponsored by the St. Louis Gateway Classic Sports Foundation. It will be held  from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 22 at the St. Louis Gateway Classic Complex.
  • Made in the Midwest: Manufacturing Your Future is an executive summit held from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sept. 27 at  the Living World at Saint Louis Zoo. The event is free, but you must RSVP by Sept. 21. Complimentary breakfast will be served.
  • The University of Missouri hosts a variety of classes for small business owners. Access a complete calendar of its courses.

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