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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 dropout: T-Mobile's parent Deutsche Telekom says 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 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% 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 2,297 of them coming from AT&T Wireless customers. Sprint PCS, which has a much smaller consumer base, was next with 1,119 complaints, followed by 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 a carrier.
AT&T Wireless has said it will entertain bids until Feb. 13. In addition to Cingular, NTT DoCoMo--which already has 17% equity in AT&T Wireless--has taken action to enable it to file a formal bid.