FCC to launch wireless probe

28 Aug 2009

US regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched an investigation into competition in the country’s wireless sector, the Financial Times reports. The market is dominated by the ‘big four’ operators – AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless – which together account for 92.78% of the 270 million strong customer market. Consumer advocates and smaller mobile network operators have complained that the wave of consolidation that has swept through the US mobile industry, including deals such as Verizon’s 2008 acquisition of Alltel and Sprint’s purchase of pre-paid MVNO Virgin Mobile USA, has damaged competition and put too much power in the hands of the major operators. The inquiry will also study the effects of handset exclusivity agreements and long-term contracts on the market, as well as whether larger cellcos damage competition by charging high fees for connecting rivals’ calls over their networks and for using lines that carry data for wireless internet services. Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman, said that the probe will look ‘broadly at all of the elements that affect what we understand to be the mobile marketplace.’