T-Mobile USA may be required to modify its stake in a rural carrier that it owns jointly with Verizon Wireless, after being notified by FCC officials that Deutsche Telekom’s (DT’s) non-controlling stock interest in T-Mobile appears to violate foreign ownership benchmarks as it pertains to the carrier in question. T-Mobile, the nation’s fourth-largest wireless operator, was given until November 17 to respond to the agency’s query which, according to sources, arose in connection with the FCC’s review of foreign ownership issues associated with the Verizon-Alltel merger. At issue is T-Mobile’s 30% minority interest in Wireless Alliance LLC, a Minnesota-based mobile phone operator that is controlled indirectly by Verizon Wireless (which, in turn, is owned 45% by Vodafone of Great Britain). Although the FCC determined in 2001 that DT’s stock interest in T-Mobile was permissible under a 25% foreign ownership threshold that could be waived, the FCC advised T-Mobile last month that, based on the structure of T-Mobile’s ownership stake in the Wireless Alliance venture, “it appears that [DT], a foreign corporation, has a 30% non-controlling interest in a common carrier license” that the FCC has no discretion to waive under a stricter statutory benchmark of 20%. (Verizon, meanwhile, has informed the FCC that it would place into trust voting rights associated with some of Alltel’s holdings so as to preclude Vodafone’s interests in those partnerships.) Emphasizing that, “the FCC is not questioning DT’s ownership of T-Mobile or T-Mobile’s corporate structure which has been approved by the FCC numerous times,” T-Mobile regulatory affairs vice president Tom Sugrue said, “while we are perplexed by the FCC legal analysis, we nonetheless believe the matter is easily resolvable.”