WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Department antitrust regulators
cleared the way yesterday for Cingular Wireless LLC’s $41
billion acquisition of AT&T Wireless Services Inc., a crucial
step toward creating the nation’s largest wireless telephone
company.

The merger still must be approved by the Federal Communications
Commission. That approval could come as early as today.

Under an agreement with the Justice Department filed in federal
court in Washington, Cingular must divest itself of assets in 11
states.

“Without these divestitures, wireless customers in these
markets would have had fewer choices for their wireless telephone
service and faced the risk of higher prices, lower quality service
and fewer choices for the newest high-speech mobile wireless data
services,” said R. Hewitt Pate, assistant attorney general
for the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Cingular is an Atlanta-based joint venture of BellSouth Corp.
and SBC Communications Inc. of San Antonio. Its acquisition of
Redmond, Wash.-based AT&T Wireless would create a cellular
phone colossus with 46 million customers, topping the 37.5 million
customers of Verizon Wireless and paring the number of national
wireless phone players to five.

Together the two companies have about 70,000 employees, although
layoffs are expected if the merger goes through.

The settlement requires the merged company to divest assets in
parts of Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, Missouri, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee and
Texas.

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