Ajit Pai oks T-Mobile/Sprint merger, "requires" 5G rollout that’ll happen anyway

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Shares of T-Mobile rose $2.93, or nearly 4%, to $78.29, while Sprint's stock soared 19% to $7.34. The U.S. Department of Justice still needs to approve the merger as well, and according to a Bloomberg report, officials are leaning against the deal due to concerns about competition and prices.

While Pai's backing is key to the deal, further steps remain.

As has become the norm at the federal regulator, the decision appears to have been made exclusively by the chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, who posted a statement on Monday morning arguing that new commitments made by the two companies about 5G deployment and rural wireless access were sufficient for approval.

The top official at the United States communications regulator on Monday announced his support for the proposed $26 billion merger between telecoms firms Sprint and T-Mobile.

T-Mobile and Sprint haven't given up on an attempted merger, even as antitrust officials have raised concerns and they've had to push their deadline back. In addition, T-Mobile says it will commit to offering in-home wireless broadband internet service to 9.6 million households in three years, and that number includes 2.6 million rural households.

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He went 11-for-26 from the field, made two of his six three-point attempts and went 5-of-7 from the free throw line. The victor will advance to the conference finals to play the two-time reigning champion Golden State Warriors .

Pai also noted that both Sprint and T-Mobile have made concessions to assuage regulatory concerns, including a commitment to not raise wireless fees for three years and to divest themselves of prepaid wireless brand Boost Mobile to give consumers another competitive option.

The companies have made promises on building out 5G and expanding rural broadband before, but now they are attaching timelines and agreeing to penalties if they fail to meet their commitments. T-Mobile plans to use the 600MHz spectrum on LTE Band 71 for this effort. It also pledged to sell off Boost Mobile, the no-contract carrier that is now owned by Sprint.

Together, T-Mobile and Sprint have about 131 million subscribers, virtually matching second-ranked AT&T and posing stiff competition to market leader Verizon Communications. Carr today said he's supporting the merger, writing on Twitter that the deal "will enable Americans across the country to see more competition and an accelerated buildout of fast, 5G service, including in rural America". When companies as big as T-Mobile ... And the companies pledged that new T-Mobile will not terminate Sprint's reseller agreement with cable operator Altice upon closing and that the merged entity "will engage in good-faith negotiations to expand the existing agreement between Sprint and Altice to the New T-Mobile 5G network", according to an 8-K filing by T-Mobile. "Still waiting on that investigation of T-Mobile & others for selling geo-location info to brokers". This came after the companies agreed to various concessions, including a pledge to not raise prices for three years. "We've seen this kind of consolidation in airlines and with drug companies", she said.

There are separate requirements for rural America, where the companies have committed to 85 percent coverage within three years and 90 percent coverage within six years. The FCC is not requiring any spectrum divestitures from the carriers. Pai also noted that they had "guaranteed" that 90 per cent of Americans would get broadband "of at least 100 Mbps" and 99 per cent would have "speeds of at least 50 Mbps" - although that is effectively a restatement of the 5G rollout promise given the additional speeds that come with such technology. "I have serious doubts".

We'll find out soon enough whether the Justice Department has reached a different conclusion.

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