A Foolish Week of Telecom

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This week's big story actually began one week ago when Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) scored huge. Its $3.6 billion deal not only gave the carrier enough wireless spectrum to dominate AT&T (NYSE: T  ) in seven out of the eight largest markets in the country, it also gave the cable companies that sold off that spectrum -- Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks -- the rights to resell Verizon's wireless services.

And how long will those reselling rights last? As Comcast cable President Neil Smit said, for "perpetuity."

That action gives Comcast and Time Warner Cable the opportunity to ditch Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) as their wireless network providers when those arrangements end in six months.

That leads us to...
Clearwire started its money raising campaign earlier this week with an offer of $300 million worth of Class A common stock to the public, and a $295 million private sale of its Class B common stock to Sprint. This is all part of last week's $1.6 billion life support deal Clearwire worked out with Sprint.

But Clearwire thought better of the $300 million offering yesterday -- and upped it to $350 million. It is trying to build a 4G LTE network to compete with the big boys, and will need every dollar it can get.

More spectrum, please
In the meantime, MetroPCS CFO Braxton Carter told the conferees at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference yesterday that his company wouldn't mind getting some of Clearwire's spectrum. MetroPCS seeks to move into LTE territory and needs to increase its network capacity.

As an added bonus, Carter also gave his opinion on the prognosis for the AT&T/T-mobile merger. "Given the intense opposition by the government ... it's not probable the deal is going to go forward," he said.

Now, just wait a darn minute
That was certainly not the opinion that AT&T CFO John Stephens voiced at the same conference, insisting that AT&T would "continue to move forward ... to complete the T-Mobile transaction." When a question came from the audience asking what AT&T's Plan B would be in a worst-case scenario, Stephens answered: "Our Plan A."

And lest any AT&T shareholders should be unduly worried about the $4 billion charge the company will take this quarter toward that looming deal-failure fee, Stephens pointed out that "I certainly expect that it'll be fully deductible ... you guys can do the math on that."

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson also spoke of the merger at a Bloomberg-sponsored event yesterday. He said his company had a "strong case" in the antitrust lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice. He also took to task the U.S. Congress for lax oversight of the regulatory agencies. "Our Congress has been very lazy in terms of how it has legislated the role of our regulators," he said.

Could he have been referring to the Federal Communications Commission last week releasing a very negative preliminary report on the merger?

Windows phone spoken here
(NYSE: NOK  ) CEO Stephen Elop told Boy Genius Report last week that the company will bring its newest smartphones to the U.S. in early 2012, and they'll be running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "As we enter the U.S. ... you will see us take steps to work closely with operators," he said.

It may turn out that those phones will end up first on T-Mobile's display table. On Wednesday, Nokia and T-Mobile sent out invitations to a media event to take place Dec. 14. The invitations didn't give anything away other than saying the companies "have something exciting in the works." A tease, or a real announcement? We'll have to wait until next week to find out.

As for AT&T buying the Nokia Windows Phones, there have only been whispers that the company may release an LTE version of the top-of-the-line Lumia 800. And Verizon has said that LTE is a necessary feature for those phones to become big. "We've communicated to Microsoft that LTE is critical to us," Verizon CMO Marni Walden told CNET.

Cutting edge only need apply
Ted Carlson, the CEO of U.S. Cellular's (NYSE: USM  ) parent company, Telephone & Data Systems, told the UBS Global Conference on Monday, "We're never going to say never about the iPhone." Yet last month Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) offered U.S. Cellular the right to sell the current iPhone, and the carrier turned it down. Why? Because the iPhone is not LTE-capable. Apparently, the company is recruiting customers for its upcoming LTE network and doesn't want shift its focus.

Considering the no-expense-spared effort by Sprint in order to get the iPhone, that may have been a very smart move.

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Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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