WASHINGTON — The federal judge hearing the US government's lawsuit seeking to block AT&T's $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile has set a first meeting to discuss the prospects for a settlement.


US District Judge Ellen Huvelle ordered lawyers for the Justice Department, AT&T and T-Mobile, the US unit of Germany's Deutsche Telekom, to attend a status conference in her courtroom here on September 21.

"The parties shall be prepared to discuss the prospects for settlement," Huvelle said.

She also asked them to prepare a schedule for managing the case if it goes to trial.

The Justice Department filed suit on August 31 to block AT&T from taking over T-Mobile, saying the mega-merger would harm competition.

"We are seeking to block this deal in order to maintain a vibrant and competitive marketplace," Deputy Attorney General James Cole said.

AT&T has promised to "vigorously contest" the Justice Department's move in court.

Sprint Nextel, the third-largest US wireless carrier, filed its own lawsuit against the deal on Tuesday.