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FCC Cites AT&T Wireless Complaints

Just as AT&T Wireless begins collecting acquisition bids from potential suitors, the Federal Communications Commission has interjected some bad news into the proceedings--nearly one-half of all consumer complaints about phone-number

Just as AT&T Wireless begins collecting acquisition bids from potential suitors, the Federal Communications Commission has interjected some bad news into the proceedings--nearly one-half of all consumer complaints about phone-number portability have been about the wireless provider.

At that same time, the auction received news of its first drop out, as T-Mobile's parent Deutsche Telekom said it won't bid for AT&T.

But neither development is expected to tone down enthusiasm for the remaining bidders, as Cingular Wireless--which opened the bidding--may be forced to sweeten its $30 billion offer for AT&T Wireless. Cingular's owners--BellSouth and SBC Communications--have given formal approval to proceed with the acquisition exercise. This could serve to continue drive up AT&T Wireless's stock price, which has already jumped more than 50 percent in recent weeks as rumors circulated that the company was for sale.

In releasing the consumer complaint numbers for wireless number portability, the FCC said it had received 4,734 complaints on the issue, with 2297 of them coming from AT&T Wireless customers. Finishing a strong second was Sprint PCS, which has a much smaller consumer base, with 1119 complaints. Other complaints were for Verizon Wireless, with 739 complaints; Cingular Wireless, 699; T-Mobile, 625; Nextel, 332; Qwest, 195; and ALLTEL, 119. The FCC said the existence of a complaint isn't necessarily an indication of wrongdoing by any of the carriers.

AT&T Wireless has said it will entertain bids until Feb. 13. In addition to Cingular, NTT DoCoMo--already holding 17 percent equity in the target firm--has taken action to enable it to file a formal bid.

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