WASHINGTON: The US telecom regulator Tuesday approved the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, moving the tie-up of the third- and fourth-largest US carriers closer to completion.
The Federal Communications Commission cleared the $26 billion deal three months after approval by US Justice Department antitrust officials.
The 3-2 FCC vote is conditioned on the divestment by Sprint of its prepaid division Boost Mobile and a deal allowing satellite broadcast group Dish to begin building a new national wireless network.
Backers of the deal say combining T-Mobile and Sprint will create a strong number three US wireless carrier behind Verizon and AT&T, with the resources to invest in 5G, or fifth-generation networks.
“The transaction will help secure United States leadership in 5G, close the digital divide in rural America, and enhance competition in the broadband market,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
Critics claim, however, it will reduce choices for American consumers and ultimately lead to higher prices.
Voting against the deal, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said it will result in three firms controlling 99 percent of the wireless market.
“By any metric, this transaction will raise prices, lower quality, and slow innovation, just as we start to deploy the next-generation of wireless technology,” she said in a statement.
“We´ve all seen what happens when market concentration increases following a merger.”
The companies have said they would not finalize the deal until an antitrust challenge from more than a dozen US states is resolved.