The Rural Cellular Association (RCA) says it plans to fight AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile USA.
The group, which represents many of AT&T's competitors, wants regulators to block the deal altogether instead of merely imposing conditions on the merger.
"We're totally committed to doing what we can to block the AT&T/T-Mobile deal," said Hu Meena, RCA chairman and president and CEO of Cellular South, during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "There were supposed to be tough conditions for the Verizon/Alltel deal, and that did nothing to improve the competitive landscape."
RCA's members had been galvanized by AT&T's attempt to buy out T-Mobile, Meena said. The deal would give AT&T and Verizon Wireless nearly 80 percent of the U.S. wireless market, creating a near-duopoly.
"You have [AT&T and Verizon] on one side, everyone else I know has grave concerns or is dead set against it," Meena said. "Collectively, we have a strong voice."
Sprint, which is stridently opposed to AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile, joined the RCA Tuesday in a show of solidarity with the smaller carriers that compete with Tier 1 operators. Sprint is also a member of CTIA, whose members include AT&T and Verizon Wireless, among others.
Meena said the RCA's lobbying efforts against AT&T's merger with T-Mobile would not detract from the group's other priorities, namely interoperability requirements in the 700 MHz band and a ban on device exclusivity.
The RCA is positioning itself as an advocacy group for what it calls "competitive carriers," carriers which compete against AT&T and Verizon.
The association's bylaws, tailored for rural and regional operators, state that its carrier members cannot have more than 10 million subscribers, but the RCA holds appeal for larger carriers working to compete against Tier 1 operators.
Sprint joined the RCA as an affiliate member because the size of its subscriber base bans it from qualifying as a carrier member.