Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has shared with his colleagues a draft Order that would approve, subject to conditions, the proposed $146 billion (€131bn) merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.
“After one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that this transaction will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas,” stated Pai. “Moreover, with the conditions included in this draft Order, the merger will promote robust competition in mobile broadband, put critical mid-band spectrum to use, and bring new competition to the fixed broadband market. I thank our transaction team for the thorough and careful analysis reflected in this draft Order and hope that my colleagues will vote to approve it.”
Commission staff conducted a comprehensive review of the proposed transaction, including thousands of pages of pleadings, millions of pages of business documents, and numerous engineering and economic models submitted by the applicants and other commenters. Staff also conducted independent analyses of the public interest claims of T-Mobile, Sprint, and third parties. Following that review, the transaction team prepared the draft Order circulated by the Chairman for the Commission’s consideration.
The draft Order explains that the transaction will advance the rapid deployment of a new 5G wireless network, improving the quality of mobile broadband services for American consumers and increasing 5G infrastructure deployment in the United States. Consumers will directly benefit from improvements in network quality and coverage, which in turn will foster innovation in a wide variety of sectors and services (itself creating significant public interest benefits). Moreover, the transaction will help to close the digital divide by bringing robust 5G deep into rural areas, with enforceable conditions in the draft Order requiring coverage of at least 99 per cent of Americans within six years.
The Order also carefully reviews concerns raised in the record as to the competitive effects of the transaction. It concludes that the divestiture of Boost Mobile, along with other conditions, would address the potential for competitive harm from the transaction. While the transaction would increase competition and network quality in many respects, the draft Order concludes that the Boost Mobile divestiture is necessary to ensure that price-sensitive customers in densely-populated areas are not harmed. The draft Order concludes that, as conditioned, the transaction would be in the public interest.
In addition to analysing the proposed merger, in light of DISH’s planned acquisition of Boost Mobile, the Order also addresses certain extensions, commitments, and modifications to DISH’s spectrum holdings to effectuate its deployment of a nationwide 5G network. The Order finds that DISH’s planned 5G deployment, in connection with its acquisition of Boost, would also be in the public interest. It delegates the associated extensions, commitments, and modifications to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau for processing and implementation in accordance with procedures set forth in the Communications Act and the draft Order.