T-Mobile and Sprint just got the go ahead from a U.S. district court judge. The merger would combine the country’s third and fourth largest mobile carriers, effectively reducing the number of key carriers from four down to three. Following months of delays and push back from high-profile authorities, a US district judge has ruled in the companies’ favor, allowing them to move within one step of concluding a deal that promises to deploy 5G service to 97 percent of Americans within three years.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, it seems, sided with the latter. He lauded T-Mobile’s business practices in a statement. “T-Mobile has redefined itself over the past decade as a maverick that has spurred the two largest players in its industry to make numerous pro-consumer changes,” Judge Marrero wrote.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he was “pleased” with the court’s decision not to block the deal: “The T-Mobile-Sprint merger will help close the digital divide and secure United States leadership in 5G,” Pai said in a statement. “This transaction represents a unique opportunity to speed up the deployment of 5G throughout the United States, put critical mid-band spectrum to more productive use, and bring much faster mobile broadband to rural Americans. I’m gratified that the federal district court agreed with the FCC and U.S. Department of Justice that this merger is lawful and should be allowed to proceed. This is a big win for American consumers.”
However, in order to obtain permission for the deal from the Department of Justice, T-Mobile and Sprint suggested a number of caveats designed to mitigate the union’s competitive advantage. The companies will have to sell the prepaid parts of Sprint’s business — Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid — to competitor Dish, which will also gain access to the pair’s 20,000+ cell sites and retail locations. Sprint began shutting down Virgin Mobile and migrating customers to Boost Mobile on February 2nd.
The deal has already cleared a number of key hurdles, including Justice Department approval. Involved states, however, are considering an appeal. “From the start, this merger has been about massive corporate profits over all else, and despite the companies’ false claims, this deal will endanger wireless subscribers where it hurts most: their wallets,” NY Attorney General Attorney Letitia James said in a statement.