FCC approves merger of T-Mobile and Sprint

Both democrats on the commission voted against the deal, which shrinks the number of major wireless carriers in the US from four to three.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has formally approved the $26 billion merger and acquisition between T-Mobile and Sprint. Both democrats on the commission voted against the deal, which shrinks the number of major wireless carriers in the US from four to three.

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks issued a statement of opposition, arguing that the merger will hurt competition and leave consumers with fewer low-cost wireless options.

"You don't need to be an expert to know that going from four wireless carriers to three will hurt competition. This merger takes a bad situation and makes it worse," Starks said in a statement. "Higher prices and fewer options across the country will inevitably result. Quite simply, the effects of this ill-conceived merger will hit low-income and rural communities hardest of all."

Similarly, democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel pointed to the airline and pharmaceutical industries as examples of why the merger between the wireless carriers would ultimately harm consumers. 

"We've all seen what happens when markets become more concentrated after a merger like this one," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "In the airline industry, it brought us baggage fees and smaller seats. In the pharmaceutical industry, it led to a handful of drug companies raising the prices of lifesaving medications. There's no reason to think this time will be different."

In July, the US Department of Justice approved the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint after the carriers agreed to sell key business assets to Dish Network. As part of the divestiture requirements set by the DOJ, Dish will acquire Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint's prepaid business for approximately $1.4 billion. The purchase includes 9.3 million customers and 400 employees.

Dish will also pay $3.6 billion for licenses to 14 MHz of nationwide 800 MHz spectrum.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile and Sprint must provide at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations to Dish, and the Colorado-based satellite TV provider will also get total access to T-Mobile's network for the next seven years while Dish builds out its 5G network. With the divestitures, Dish has the potential to become the fourth major US wireless carrier after T-Mobile and Sprint merge into one.

With the FCC's approval now in the bag, T-Mobile and Sprint are left to face a pending multi-state lawsuit filed by attorneys general that seeks to block the merger.