The Federal Communications Commission released its official order on T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint on Tuesday in a final regulatory seal of approval for the deal. The FCC voted to approve the merger last month after weeks of signaling support.
The two Democrats on the FCC issued lengthy dissenting opinions spelling disaster if the third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers are allowed to merge.
“In short, our existing wireless market will devolve into a cozy oligopoly dominated by just three carriers,” wrote Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “This will do nothing to make it easier for Americans to stay connected.”
Her colleague Geoffrey Starks published a similar statement, claiming, “the benefits of this merger, if any, simply do not outweigh the harms.”
Starks and Rosenworcel were overruled by their Republican colleagues in an October vote that gave the two companies the green light to merge, creating a combined carrier under the T-Mobile brand. FCC Chair Ajit Pai lauded the merger in a statement Tuesday.
“After a lengthy and painstaking review process, the Commission has correctly concluded that this transaction is in the public interest,” he said. “In particular, the transaction will help secure United States leadership in 5G, close the digital divide in rural America, and enhance competition in the broadband market.”
FCC approval — coupled with the Justice Department’s sign-off earlier this year — gives the companies authorization from federal regulators but it isn’t the final obstacle on their path to merging.
T-Mobile and Sprint still face a multi-state lawsuit brought by attorneys general seeking to block the merger. The states claim the deal will hurt consumers and competition.
T-Mobile and Sprint announced plans to merge in April 2018, a deal that would create a $146 billion wireless carrier. T-Mobile plans to keep its Bellevue, Wash., headquarters and operate a second base in Overland Park, Kansas, Sprint’s hometown.
The two companies spent months in touch-and-go negotiations with federal regulators. The Justice Department finally signed off on the merger over the summer, thanks to last-minute concessions from T-Mobile and Sprint.
The settlement requires T-Mobile to transfer assets to satellite TV provider Dish Network to create a new wireless carrier in an attempt to assuage concerns that the merger would hurt competition. Sprint is divesting Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and its prepaid phone business under the agreement.