DOJ edges closer to T-Mobile-Sprint approval

T-Mobile CEO John Legere, left, and Executive Director of Sprint Marcelo Claure talk before testifying at a House judiciary committee hearing in March.

Chip Somodevilla/Techhnews

The US Justice Department is getting close to approving T-Mobile’s $26 billion merger with Sprint if the companies agree to sell multiple assets to help create a new wireless carrier, according to The New York Times. The paper reports that three unnamed sources close to the DOJ have said the agency could approve the deal as soon as next week, so long as a new nationwide phone carrier can be created to ensure sufficient competition in the wireless market.

T-Mobile and Sprint have already struck a deal with the Federal Communications Commission to sell off Sprint’s prepaid brand Boost Mobile in exchange for the agency’s blessing. The FCC and the DOJ must each sign off on the deal. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has already said he’d support the merger if the companies agreed to sell Boost and if they make other commitments, such as meeting build-out requirements for 5G wireless service. In addition to the Boost sale, the DOJ is also asking T-Mobile and Sprint to divest wireless spectrum, according to the Times. 

Reports that the DOJ wanted the companies to sell off assets to create a new carrier first circulated last month. But the Times report suggests a deal is imminent. 

Such an agreement could weaken the case for the states suing to stop the merger. A group of 10 state attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, filed their suit earlier this week, saying that the merged company would “deprive consumers of the benefits of competition and drive up prices for cellphone services.” 

The lawsuit to block the merger is set for a pretrial hearing next week in federal court in New York City, according to Reuters.

T-Mobile declined to comment on the report. Sprint, the DOJ and the New York Attorney General’s office weren’t immediately available for comment. 

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