FCC Chairman Backs T-Mobile, Sprint Merger With Conditions

FCC Chairman Backs T-Mobile, Sprint Merger With Conditions

The companies also said they would divest a prepaid cellphone business, Boost Mobile, to address antitrust concerns.

Sprint and T-Mobile have been pushing regulators to approve their proposed merger for a year, and it looks like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is falling in line.

Pai released a statement saying that because T-Mobile and Sprint have committed to covering nearly the entire country with 5G over the next three years (97% of the population), increasing buildout of their mid-band spectrum holdings, creating another home broadband choice for rural customers who don't have many, and selling off Boost, Sprint's prepaid brand, he is willing to recommend an approval.

T-Mobile and Sprint confirmed today that they were making commitments to the FCC if its merger closes.

Pai will recommend that his colleagues approve the merger in the coming weeks.

T-Mobile and Sprint also "offered specific commitments regarding the rollout of an in-home broadband product, including to rural households", Pai said. The companies will continue to own two other prepaid brands, Virgin Mobile and Metro.

Pai's statement was quickly supported by fellow Republican commissioner and Pai's former aide Brendan Carr, though Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was notably less impressed.

In a statement, Pai said that pledges by both companies to deploy fifth generation, or 5G, broadband speeds across most of the United States could meet an FCC priority of bridging the digital divide in rural America.

For the past four years, T-Mobile and Sprint have been trying to merge together. Cable company Charter Communications was recently found to have failed to meet its merger commitments to offer high-speed Internet service in NY, for example. "The little bit of price competition people have enjoyed thanks to the rivalry between Sprint and T-Mobile could keep sending prices lower". He added that the merger with Sprint will allow its 5G network to have eight times the capacity by 2024 than what would be possible if Sprint and T-Mobile would remain as stand-alone carriers. Under the merging companies' deal with the FCC, the commission will be able to approve or deny a new wholesale agreement T-Mobile is expected to strike with Boost. In their bid for approval, the two companies agreed to sell off Sprint's Boost Mobile and committed to having 5G coverage for 85 percent of the U.S. within three years and 90 percent within six. That would mostly employ Sprint's mid-band wireless spectrum.

T-Mobile already provides average download speeds of 21.1Mbps, while Sprint's network offers an average of 13.9Mbps, according to OpenSignal data based on customer speed tests nationwide. T-Mobile and Sprint also have promised that 90% of Americans would have access to mobile broadband service at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and 99% would have access to speeds of at least 50 Mbps. "It hasn't worked out well for consumers", she wrote on Twitter.

"While the two federal agencies have different standards of review that could lead to different outcomes, we believe the likelihood for some coordination between the agencies is encouraging for the approval prospects by the (Justice Department)", the note said. "But now the FCC wants to bless the same kind of consolidation for wireless carriers". This came after the companies agreed to various concessions, including a pledge to not raise prices for three years. "I have serious doubts".

Related Articles