US telecoms regulator chair backs T-Mobile, Sprint merger
Parties will require changes to proposed $26bn merger, which is opposed by ltice USA, the fourth largest cable company
Washington — Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US have won the support of the chair of the US telecommunications regulator but will require a series of changes to their proposed $26bn merger, including selling Sprint’s Boost Mobile cell service.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai said on Monday he will recommend that the other four commissioners vote to approve the merger. A second member of the five-person FCC, commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, also said he will vote to approve the deal.
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Once an order is drafted, the full panel must vote to approve or reject the deal.
Sprint shares jumped 25.1% to $7.73 while T-Mobile was up 6% to $79.93.
The FCC will not formally vote on the merger on Monday but will first draft an order, two people briefed on the matter said. The justice department must also approve the deal.
In a filing with the FCC on Monday, the companies pledged to sell Boost Mobile, a prepaid wireless service provider.
Altice USA, the fourth largest cable company, has urged the FCC to reject the deal because it was concerned the combined company could prevent it from offering phone service.
Altice has a Mobile Virtual Network Operator agreement with Sprint that would allow it to start offering mobile phone service later in 2019 . The companies pledged they would not scrap the deal with Altice.
T-Mobile also promised that the new company would build a “world-leading 5G” network, the next generation of wireless service, to give rural Americans robust 5G broadband and enhance home broadband.
T-Mobile had said the companies were extending a deadline to complete their deal to July 29. The two are among just four national wireless carriers, with Verizon Communications and AT&T leading the pack.
The FCC and justice department had been expected to make a decision in early June. They have been weighing a potential loss of competition, and subsequently higher prices for consumers, against the prospect of a more powerful third wireless carrier that can build a faster, better 5G network.