The stage is now set for AT&T and T-Mobile to find out if their proposed $39 billion merger of the two wireless companies will actually happen. Reuters reports that on Wednesday U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle set a date of February 13, 2012 for the trial that will pit AT&T against the US Justice Department. The government filed a lawsuit against AT&T's merger proposal in late August, claiming that if the company is allowed to join with T-Mobile it would " ... remove a significant competitive force from the market."
One of AT&T's lawyers, Mark Hansen, tried to get Judge Huvelle to set an earlier date for the trial, claiming that their timetable to merge with T-Mobile was "already months beyond where we want to be." In a separate decision, Judge Huvelle set an October 24 date for a hearing to act on AT&T's request to dismiss a separate lawsuit from rival wireless company Sprint.
Before this week's trial date decision, AT&T said that the Justice Department's lawsuit did not prove its own case, saying, "The Department does not and cannot explain how, in the face of all these aggressive rivals, the combined AT&T/T-Mobile will have any ability or incentive to restrict output, raise prices, or slow innovation." However some believe that AT&T and the government might come to a settlement before the trial begins. If such a deal is reached, it might force AT&T to sell off some of its own assets or some of T-Mobile's properties to other companies.