FCC happy with $26m T-Mobile/Sprint deal as 16 states fight on
The long-running saga of the $26 million T-Mobile-Sprint merger in the US has entered the last lap, as the companies try to satisfy the last objectors.
Ajit Pai, chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said – in a draft order – he is likely to approve the deal. The Department of Justice (DoJ) is also satisfied. But chief law officers of 16 states are still unhappy.
Now reports from the US say that T-Mobile US, controlled by Deutsche Telekom, and Sprint, controlled by SoftBank, are exploring settlement ideas with the attorneys general of the states – one third of the 50 states of the US.
Their case started in June when Letitia James (pictured), attorney general of New York state, and Xavier Becerra, the law chief of California, joined with eight other state attorneys general in saying that a merger would “cause irreparable harm” to US consumers.
The other eight were attorneys general for Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia and Wisconsin, plus the District of Columbia. Since then other states have joined the action.
The case is due to start on 9 December in court in the Southern District of New York.
But reports say that the two companies are talking to the attorneys general about a settlement.
Sprint has already agreed to sell Virgin Mobile USA as well as Boost Mobile and spectrum to satellite TV company Dish Networks for $5 billion in order to get the DoJ’s agreement.
James said in June: “The T-Mobile and Sprint merger would not only cause irreparable harm to mobile subscribers nationwide by cutting access to affordable, reliable wireless service for millions of Americans, but would particularly affect lower-income and minority communities here in New York and in urban areas across the country.”
She added: “That’s why we are going to court to stop this merger and protect our consumers, because this is exactly the sort of consumer-harming, job-killing megamerger our antitrust laws were designed to prevent.”
The FCC’s Pai said: “After one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that this transaction will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas. Moreover, with the conditions included in this draft order, the merger will promote robust competition in mobile broadband, put critical mid-band spectrum to use, and bring new competition to the fixed broadband market.”