T-Mobile and Sprint already wooed the Federal Communications Commission, but its merger plans needed approval from the Department of Justice if they were ever going to come to fruition. Today (June 26), the wireless carriers overcame that major hurdle, Bloomberg reports.
The Justice Department announced its support of the deal Friday, days after Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's corporate parent and the tentative majority shareholder of the T-Mobile/Sprint entity, agreed to a deal with Dish Network worth $5 billion whereby the satellite TV firm was given the keys to the Boost Mobile discount brand, as well as access to Deutsche Telekom's wireless spectrum.
Under the agreement, Dish will have seven years to utilize T-Mobile's network, while it constructs mobile infrastructure of its own.
Dish's cooperation was key to DOJ approval of the merger, as the department was concerned about the ramifications of the consolidation of the United States' number three and four wireless providers.
Dish has already licensed a sizable swath of spectrum on its own, but hasn't put it to use yet. With assistance from T-Mobile and Sprint, the company could slide into the market as a potential fourth major network, which allayed the fears of antitrust lawmakers.
However, the merger isn't totally in the clear yet; no less than 13 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have joined forces to file a lawsuit in the hopes of blocking the deal.
New York Attorney General Letitia James called the plan a "consumer-harming, job-killing megamerger," adding that it 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."
T-Mobile and Sprint have contested that the merger will allow them to deliver 5G networks to their customers more quickly and broadly that the carriers would otherwise be able to on their own. It's a fair point; T-Mobile's low-band and millimeter-wave holdings, alongside Sprint's mid-band spectrum, would paint a pretty comprehensive 5G network fit for cities as well as rural areas. And that's something Americans could certainly use, given how spotty T-Mobile's 5G network was in New York last month when we tested it.
While Deutsche Telekom will have to fend off states' concerns, the green light given by the FCC and DOJ means that T-Mobile and Sprint are now closer than ever to realizing their goal — and getting on an equal footing with rivals Verizon and AT&T.