T-Mobile and Sprint merger approval clears the way 5G first responder service

A US Federal court cleared the takeover of US mobile carrier Sprint by rival T-Mobile US on 11 February 2020.

The two companies hope to complete the deal by 1 April, some two years after the merger of the third- and fourth-largest mobile operators was first announced.

The go-ahead for the merger means that T-Mobile’s promise of free 5G access for first responder agencies can now become a reality. The carrier has said that if the merger was approved it “will launch a 10-year commitment—providing unlimited talk, text, and smartphone data for U.S. state and local public and non-profit law enforcement, fire, and EMS agencies”.

The carrier has made commitments that its new T-Mobile network will extend 5G coverage to 97% of the U.S. population within three years and 99% within six years, as well as making commitments around extending rural coverage to cover 90% of rural Americans.

The proposed merger was held up when a number of states, including California and New York, objected to the deal claiming it would reduce competition and result in higher prices for consumers. The appeal by the states was made despite the fact that the FCC and the US Department of Justice had given conditional approval of the deal.

T-Mobile and Sprint argue that by combining the two companies they will be in a better position to compete with their larger rivals AT&T and Verizon

The judge in the US federal court for the Southern District of New York, who heard the case in December 2019, appears to have agreed and ruled that the merger was not expected to significantly lessen competition and noted that Sprint was in a weak position by itself.

A number of regulatory formalities still have to be completed before the merger can be finalised. Further court action is not out of the question as Letitia James, New York's attorney general, has said they "disagree wholeheartedly" with the decision and will consider filing an appeal.