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One wireless merger too many?

(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston)

Wall Street raved over AT&T's $39 billion bid to take over T-Mobile USA to create the biggest U.S. wireless telecommunications provider, seeing the biggest corporate deal proposed since the autumn 2008 financial meltdown as a sign of optimism for the U.S. economy's comeback.

But inasmuch as the expanded AT&T would control nearly 40 percent of the U.S. market -- 129 million subscribers -- it's certain to draw intense scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission. The combination of the second- and fourth-biggest carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, would leave a near-duopoly, with, according to comScore data, the expanded AT&T controlling 38.8 percent of the market, Verizon Wireless 31.3 percent, and Sprint a far-distant third place at 11.9 percent. Regional players like Metro PCS, Leap Wireless, US Cellular, and other smaller brands and "virtual" network operators like Virgin, Boost, Tracfone and Firefly that resell service from national carriers account for the remaining 18 percent.

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