The $26 billion T-Mobile-Sprint merger cleared its last major regulatory hurdle Friday when the Justice Department approved the combination with some provisions, including the sale of Sprint’s Boost Mobile prepaid carrier to Dish Network.
The new T-Mobile-Sprint company must also sell Virgin Mobile and Sprint prepaid services to Dish, as well as some additional spectrum. T-Mobile and Sprint must provide Dish the cell sites needed to run its wireless service for seven years, while Dish builds its own 5G network, according to the agreement.
Those steps ensure “large amounts of currently unused or underused spectrum are made available to American consumers in the form of high-quality 5G networks,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement Friday.
The DOJ’s approval is the last major step for the merging of the nation’s No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers. Although the Federal Communications Commission needs to approve it, too, FCC chairman Ajit Pai gave his blessing to the corporate marriage two months ago.
After the DOJ’s announcement Friday, Pai said he would recommend the commission approve the merger.
“The commitments made to the FCC by T-Mobile and Sprint to deploy a 5G network that would cover 99% of the American people, along with the measures outlined in the Department’s consent decree, will advance U.S. leadership in 5G and protect competition," he said. Pai noted bipartisan support for the merger from Governor Laura Kelly (D-KS), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere celebrated the agreement on Twitter saying: “We are one step closer to bringing New T-Mobile to American consumers!”
During a teleconference with investors, Legere said he expected the deal to close by the end of the year.
Dish Network said it planned to deploy a 5G broadband network to 70% of the U.S. population by June 2023. The deal will “will set the stage for our entry as the nation’s fourth facilities-based wireless competitor and accelerate our work to launch the country’s first standalone 5G broadband network,” said DISH co-founder and chairman Charlie Ergen.