Small carriers and the Rural Cellular Association have been asking all along for the FCC to merge its reviews of AT&T's proposed acquisitions of T-Mobile and Qualcomm's MediaFLO spectrum into a single review process, arguing that the combined effect of both purchases going through would be far more damaging to a competitive market than the sum of the parts. They're not quite getting their way -- yet -- but the FCC's taken a small step in that direction today, releasing a statement acknowledging that "the proposed transactions raise a number of related issues" and saying that they'll "consider them in a coordinated manner at this time."
Why isn't it a total win for the rural carriers, then? It's not a full-on merger of the two reviews. The FCC says that today's move comes "without prejudice to independent treatment at a later date." In other words, they're not formally committing to bundling them -- they're simply acknowledging that the acquisitions can't be properly reviewed in a vacuum exclusive of one another. More interestingly, this means that the FCC's self-imposed 180-day limit for reviewing acquisitions is being suspended on the Qualcomm deal, and just in time: today is day 180.
Update: No surprise here -- Qualcomm's VP of Government Affairs, Dean Brenner, has come out in support of an immediate FCC approval of AT&T's MediaFLO spectrum buy, saying that there are "clear benefits" that are "totally unrelated" to the T-Mobile situation. Follow the break for the full statement.
"The FCC should approve the pending AT&T-Qualcomm spectrum sale now because of the clear benefits to the public from the sale that stand on their own and are totally unrelated to the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger. Approval now will foster the public policies that the FCC correctly deems so vital for the American public. Approval now will re-purpose unused 700 MHz unpaired spectrum for mobile broadband, thereby easing America's spectrum crunch and helping to meet the FCC's goal of reallocating 300 MHz for mobile broadband over the next five years. Approval now will also allow Qualcomm to invest in a new, spectrally efficient technology (supplemental downlink) and enable the first worldwide deployment to occur in the U.S., thereby fostering U.S. economic growth and job creation and enhancing U.S. global leadership in wireless technology."