T-Mobile’s deal with Sprint is almost across the finish line as a New York judge appears set to let the go ahead. According to reports Monday evening from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, US District Judge Victor Marrero is expected to rule in favor of the deal. A formal announcement is expected on Tuesday, the reports say.
Fourteen attorneys general, led by New York and California, had opposed the deal, arguing that combing the companies into one would dramatically reduce competition and push up prices.
T-Mobile and Sprint declined to comment on the reports. Representatives for the New York and California attorneys general didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dish, a satellite TV service that is set to acquire assets divested by T-Mobile and Sprint, declined to comment.
Announced in 2018, the proposed deal receivedand in 2019. The states represented one of the remaining hurdles preventing the companies from completing their deal, though it still requires the blessing of some public utility commissions, including California’s.
With the deal now passing through the courts, T-Mobile looks to fulfill its earlier expectation of completing the merger in “early 2020.”
T-Mobile and Sprint stock soared on the news in after-hours trading. Shares of T-Mobile rose more than 8% to $91.70, while Sprint jumped more 60% to $7.40.
How we got here
The road to the deal was long and winding, riddled with promises and obstacles that called in to question the deal’s viability.
In a bid to gain FCC approval, T-Mobile announced a host of promises around 5G and ppricing, including a pledge to not increase prices for three years. The wireless carrier won the DOJ’s blessing after a deal was brokered with Dish, which prosed to buy assets, including Sprint’s Boost Mobile brand. That purchase would allow Dish to become a new, fourth wireless carrier.
In most deals, approval by the DOJ and FCC would be enough. But 14 attorneys general continued to fight. Led by New York and California, the AGs filed a multistate lawsuit in June, arguing that allowing the nation’s current third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers to combine would “deprive consumers of the benefits of competition and drive up prices for cellphone services.”
The AGs have also questioned whether Dish has the expertise necessary to operate a competitive fourth carrier, citing the company’s inexperience in mobile telecoms.
“It will not be a new, robust wireless operator that can replace Sprint, California Deputy AG Paula Blizzard said in remarks delivered before the trial that began on Dec. 9 and ended last month.
A number of executives from T-Mobile, Sprint and Dish appeared at the trial to defend the deal, including T-Mobile CEO John Legere, President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert and President of Technology Neville Ray. Other execs who appeared in court included Sprint Chairman Marcelo Claure, current Sprint CEO Michel Combes and Dish co-founder Charlie Ergen.
After T-Mobile unveiled a host of additional initiatives in November that it said it would offer if the merger was approved — including providing free service to first-responders and free home internet to low-income households — the company was able to sway a few states into supporting its cause, including Texas and Nevada.
T-Mobile has long argued that it needs Sprint’s spectrum to build a truly robust 5G nationwide network. Sprint is the only US carrier to currently offer 5G on what is known as midband spectrum. This frequency that allows for faster data connections than the low-band 5G network T-Mobile turned on for 200 million people on Friday, but with significantly more range than the higher frequency millimeter-wave 5G currently favored by Verizon.
The carrier says that by merging with Sprint it will be able to build out a network that utilizes all three flavors of 5G: low-band, midband and millimeter-wave.
Originally published Feb. 10, 4:17 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:40 p.m.: Adds Sprint declining to comment.
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