FCC publishes approval of merger of T-Mobile and Sprint

After last month's closed-door vote, the FCC publishes its formal approval of the $26 billion deal.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday published its formal approval of the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. The FCC approved the $26 billion merger in a closed-door vote last month, with both Democrats on the commission voting against the deal.

"The Commission found that the transaction will help close the digital divide and advance United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity," the FCC said in a release Tuesday.

The merger would reduce the number of major wireless carriers in the US from four to three. T-Mobile and Sprint have agreed to hold off on closing the deal until a decision comes down in a pending lawsuit seeking to block the merger. Multiple state attorneys general filed the suit, arguing the deal will decrease competition. 

The Commission on Tuesday said the deal would not harm competition, in part because of the parties' divestiture of Boost Mobile, Sprint's leading prepaid brand. 

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, including 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.

The Commission conditioned its approval of the transaction on the parties fulfilling its commitments to provide widespread 5G service, as well as widespread high-speed mobile service. Their services will be verified by an independent third party, and if the new company fails to meet its commitments, it could be fined over $2 billion. 

Specifically, T-Mobile and Sprint have committed within three years to deploy 5G service to cover 97 percent of Americans, and within six years to reach 99 percent. That includes deploying 5G service to cover 85 percent of rural Americans within three years and 90 percent of rural Americans within six years.

They've also pledged that within six years, 90 percent of Americans would have access to mobile service with speeds of at least 100 Mbps and 99 percent of Americans would have access to speeds of at least 50 Mbps.  This includes two-thirds of rural Americans having access to mobile service with speeds of at least 100 Mbps and 90 percent of rural Americans having access to speeds of at least 50 Mbps