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Judge Cites Dish Strategy in Ruling OK-ing T-Mobile, Sprint Merger

By | February 11, 2020

A judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused a request to block T-Mobile’s proposed acquisition of Sprint. In the ruling, Judge Victor Marrero cited a deal that Dish made with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to purchase Sprint’s prepaid businesses in order to appease antitrust concerns as a key factor in his decision. 

Marrero wrote that the DOJ’s settlement made Dish “well poised to become a fourth (Mobile Network Operator) MNO in the market, and its extensive preparations and regulatory remedies indicate that it can sufficiently replace Sprint’s competitive impact.”

In July 2019, Dish entered the network as a fourth wireless carrier, and committed to the FCC that the company will deploy a facilities-based 5G broadband network capable of serving 70% of the U.S. population by June 2023.

Following completion of the merger, Dish is set to acquire Sprint’s prepaid businesses and customers, including Boost Mobile, and the Sprint-branded prepaid service; 14MHz of Sprint’s nationwide 800 MHz spectrum; and access the new T-Mobile network for seven years, including the ability to serve Dish customers between T-Mobile’s nationwide network and Dish’s new independent 5G broadband network.

The FCC approved the Spring/T-Mobile merger in November. Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement Wednesday that he was “pleased” with the court’s decision, calling the merger a “big win” for American consumers. 

“The T-Mobile-Sprint merger will help close the digital divide and secure United States leadership in 5G,” Pai said. “This transaction represents a unique opportunity to speed up the deployment of 5G throughout the United States, put critical mid-band spectrum to more productive use, and bring much faster mobile broadband to rural Americans.” 

The case was brought by the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. In a statement, New York Attorney General Letitia James, said the merger “will be bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation,” and mentioned a possible appeal. 

According to T-Mobile and Sprint, the merger remains subject to certain closing conditions, including possible additional court proceedings, and resolution of outstanding business issues among the parties.