It’s official: T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger has been approved by the judge presiding over a trial involving 14 state attorneys general.
In his decision, Judge Victor Marrero said that the merger is not likely to substantially lessen competition like the suing state AGs had claimed it would. The judge also rejected the argument that Sprint would continue to be competitive if the merger were blocked, saying that it “does not have a sustainable long-term competitive strategy”.
Additionally, the judge rejected the argument that Dish Network “would not enter the wireless services market as a viable competitor nor live up to its commitments to build a national wireless network.”
T-Mobile and Sprint struck a deal with Dish that’ll see Dish buy Sprint’s prepaid brands and 800MHz of nationwide spectrum to build out a 5G network. Dish will also get access to T-Mobile and Sprint cell sites and retail stores as well as “robust access” to T-Mobile’s network for seven years while it builds its own network.
“Today was a huge victory for this merger … and now we are FINALLY able to focus on the last steps to get this merger done!” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. “We want to thank the Court for its thorough review of the facts we presented in our case.”
Meanwhile, Sprint Execute Chairman Marcelo Claure said that “Judge Marrero’s decision validates our view that this merger is in the best interests of the U.S. economy and American consumers.”
“Today brings us a big step closer to creating a combined company that will provide nationwide 5G, lower costs, and a high-performing network that will invigorate competition to the benefit of all mobile wireless and in-home broadband consumers,” Claure added.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of the state AGs that led the lawsuit against the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, said that the ruling “marks a loss for every American who relies on their cell phone for work, to care for a family member, and to communicate with friends,” adding that “the deal will endanger wireless subscribers where it hurts most: their wallets.”
James also suggested that the state attorneys general could appeal today’s ruling.
“There is no doubt that reducing the mobile market from four to three will be bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation, which is why the states stepped up and led this lawsuit,” James said. “We disagree with this decision wholeheartedly, and will continue to fight the kind of consumer-harming megamergers our antitrust laws were designed to prevent. As we review our options, including a possible appeal, Americans should continue to hold the companies to account for their promises.”
Getting approval from Judge Marrero is one of the final hurdles that the T-Mobile-Sprint merger had to clear, but T-Mo and Sprint do still need to get their deal approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. The merger has already been approved by 18 other PUCs.
T-Mobile and Sprint say that they expect the merger to close as early as April 1, 2020.