DOJ, AT&T to go to court over T-Mobile buy

U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle has set February 13, 2012 as the trial date for the the Department of Justice’s challenge to AT&T’s (s T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile. The DOJ wants to block this merger. The judge made the decision Wednesday after meeting with the various parties, including competitors.

AT&T and T-Mobile USA had initially asked for a January 16, 2012 trial date. The AT&T-T-Mobile USA merger has come under heavy criticism, especially from rivals like privately held Cellular South and Sprint (s S). Seven state attorneys general have come out against the deal as well.

Verizon (s VZ) CEO Lowell McAdam, not surprisingly, is in favor of the merger as it allows a comfortable duopoly to exist between two former Bell companies. They can together continue to push their anti-consumer agenda if the deal goes through and there are a fewer competitors. Both AT&T and Verizon want to push metered billing and keep the prices high. I have been a loud opponent of this deal mostly because I view it as anti-consumer and unfriendly to innovation.

Cellular South issued this statement:

Cellular South is pleased with today’s scheduling hearing and looks forward to demonstrating that AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile is blatantly anticompetitive, and will result in consumers facing higher prices, less innovation, fewer choices, and reduced competition.

Sprint issued this statement:

“We are pleased that Judge Huvelle decided to move both cases very quickly and in an expedited manner.  Although the judge did not consolidate Sprint’s case with the government’s case at this time, we are pleased that the judge will hear from Sprint on the merits in oral arguments on October 24.”