Report: FCC hearing could delay AT&T/T-Mobile deal

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will ask commissioners to send AT&T Inc.’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc. for a hearing before an agency judge, a person close to the transaction said.

The hearing, which could mark a step toward rejecting the deal, is to be proposed in an order Genachowski has prepared for consideration by the full FCC, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the document hasn’t been made public.

The hearing would take place after the resolution of a Justice Department court challenge to the $39 billion deal, the person said. The antitrust case is scheduled for trial in February.

“A hearing could go on for six to 12 months,” Andrew Lipman, a Washington-based partner with Bingham McCutchen LLP, said in an interview. “It’s certainly a significant obstacle and road block.”

The last time the FCC designated a media merger for a hearing was in 2002 when the agency challenged Echostar Communications Corp.’s bid for fellow satellite company DirecTV, Lipman said. The companies dropped their bid, he said.

Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, didn’t comment when asked about the order.