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Judge sets trial date for AT&T merger case

Judge Huvelle declines to consolidate Sprint and Cellular South cases with the DOJ case for now

A U.S. district court judge has scheduled a trial to begin on Feb. 13 in the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit opposing AT&T's proposed acquisition of rival mobile carrier T-Mobile USA.

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia also scheduled an Oct. 24 hearing on AT&T's forthcoming motions to dismiss related antitrust lawsuits filed by Sprint Nextel and Cellular South. Sprint filed a lawsuit opposing the US$39 billion merger in early September, and Cellular South filed on Monday.

Huvelle, in a Wednesday scheduling hearing, declined to consolidate the Sprint and Cellular South lawsuit with the DOJ case at this point.

The trial in the DOJ case would be cancelled if the two sides reach a settlement before then.

AT&T on Wednesday Sprint of acting "disingenuously" in opposing the deal. Sprint has suggested the DOJ should allow it to purchase T-Mobile, AT&T said in a statement. "That they would act in their own economic interest is not surprising," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs. "That they would expect the United States government to be a willing partner certainly is."

Sprint said it was pleased that Huvelle is moving both its case and the DOJ case in "an expedited manner."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.


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