The US Department of Justice has approved the $ 26 billion merger agreement between T-Mobile and Sprint. After over a year in regulatory limbo, the merger received a green light from the last federal agency to hold out, with the Federal Communications Commission already signaling that it would approve the deal.
The Ministry of Justice finally approved the agreement after Dish entered into an agreement with the carriers to purchase Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint's prepaid business and "certain" spectrum assets. This will position Dish as the replacement fourth major US carrier that will be lost when T-Mobile and Sprint merge. The two companies will be required to provide at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of Dish store locations, and the satellite TV provider will also have free access to T-Mobil's network for seven years as it works to build a mobile network from its owner. by using the newly acquired assets and spectrum that Dish has held on for years. Dishes have publicly kept silent about their plans throughout the process, but it will probably change as of today.
"With this merger and associated disposal, we are expanding production significantly by ensuring that large quantities of currently unused or underused spectrum are made available to US consumers in the form of high quality 5G networks," said Makan Delrahim, Deputy State Attorney for DOJ's antitrust division. they would be able to lower prices for consumers and more quickly distribute next generation 5G networks across the country, which have argued strongly from consumer lawyers and some experts.
Both the FCC and the Ministry of Justice must approve the agreement before it can The deal is likely to be approved by the FCC, although the official vote has not yet been found In May, FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced he would vote to approve the deal after companies pledged to provide wider wireless and broadband access to rural areas.
"In light of the significant obligations of T-Mobile and Sprint as well as the facts of the protocol to date, I believe this transaction is in the public interest and intends to recommend to my colleagues that the FCC approves it," Pai said. . "This is a unique opportunity to accelerate the deployment of 5G across the United States and bring much faster mobile broadband to Americans in the country. We should seize this opportunity."
T-Mobile and Dish will also be required to support e-sim technology to make it easier to switch carriers in the hope of encouraging competition.
Right after Pai's comments, the other two Republican commissioners supported the deal. , despite the fact that they never saw any documents related to the new promises. During a congressional hearing last month, commissioners Brendan Carr and Mike O'Rielly confirmed that they had not yet seen the details of the deal.
T-Mobil's Trump Relations administration has been under greater control when the deal is over. In March the Washington Post reported that the company had spent over $ 1
"The best way to achieve the goal of high quality, affordable, nationwide 5G is through competing markets," the senators wrote. – This merger leads us further away from the type of competition we need to achieve that goal. This will lead to excessive consolidation and undermine innovation. "
T-Mobile and Sprint's main counter-argument to these concerns was a proposed deal that sold Boost Mobile and part of the combined wireless spectrum. Dish wants to acquire the assets, a move that can add to the network to replace the two companies as the fourth major carrier. Charter and Altice were also supposed to be on the spectrum, but Dish became the winner for both the spectrum and the additional funds.
T-Mobile has been trying to merge with other major carriers lately. In 2011, AT&T said they would buy T-Mobile for $ 39 billion, but a few months after the announcement, the DOJ mixed the deal. In 2012, T-Mobile reached an agreement with MetroPCS to take over the smaller company. The Sprint acquisition is now the company's largest successful purchase.
The merger has yet another obstacle to cross before the companies are clearly ready to complete. Last month, over a dozen state attorneys filed a lawsuit to block the deal, led by New York State Attorney Letitia James and California AG Xavier Becerra. "When it comes to corporate power, it's not always better," James said. "F-T-Mobile and Sprint Merger would not only cause irreparable damage to mobile subscribers across the country by cutting access to affordable and reliable wireless service for millions of Americans."
In today's announcement by the Justice Department, five states have agreed to settle including Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. New York and California are still pushing the lawsuit against the deal.
"We intend to be prepared to go to court to fight for a fair, competitive, and fair marketplace for consumers across the country," Becerra said.
Now that DOJ has approved the deal, T-Mobile and Sprint can move on. But if the color of the states eventually wins, the whole deal will have to be settled.