As Sprint/T-Mobile merger odds reach 90%, rivals push for conditions

FCC headquarters
The FCC, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is reviewing the Sprint and T-Mobile merger. (Ser Amantio di Nicolao/CC BY-3.0)

Analysts increasingly expect regulators to approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. And that situation may be driving some of the companies’ rivals to push for conditions on the merger that would aid their businesses.

“We are growing more confident (~90%E likelihood) that the merger will be approved by regulatory authorities, but with divestitures that could spawn a new, fourth competitor (cable, DISH?),” wrote the analysts at Oppenheimer in a note to investors this week. (Some hope regulators will require the merged Sprint and T-Mobile to spin off spectrum or even some customers, assets that could be purchased by a cable company or Dish Network.)

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Oppenheimer’s 90% figure is higher than the 70% odds issued by the analysts at Wells Fargo just weeks ago. When the merger was first announced, odds among Wall Street analysts ranged from 40% to 80%.

Nonetheless, select critics continue to blast the deal. Indeed, representatives from regional telecom operator C Spire met with FCC officials this week and reiterated the company’s opposition to the merger initially laid out in August.

However, C Spire executives also said that “if for any reason the Commission is inclined to grant the applications [and approve the Sprint/T-Mobile merger], the C Spire Petition seeks alternative relief—the imposition of explicit conditions to protect the ability of competitive carriers to receive fair and reasonable wholesale roaming and MVNO agreements from the merged entity.”

RELATED: 5 possible conditions on the Sprint/T-Mobile merger

In a filing with the FCC detailing the company’s meeting with FCC officials, C Spire executives argued that, if the agency approves the transaction, it needs to require the newly combined company to continue to provide roaming and MVNO access on a reasonable basis. The company’s full filing detailing the meeting is available at the end of this article.

Further, the C Spire executives argued the combined Sprint and T-Mobile should be required to maintain Sprint’s CDMA network for five years, not the three years promised by T-Mobile. “C Spire is not asking the Commission to cause New T-Mobile to maintain the Sprint CDMA network indefinitely. Rather, it has picked a reasonable transition period (5 years) that will enable C Spire to complete the ongoing migration of its CDMA-only customers to more advanced technologies according to the reasonable expectations it had based upon business discussions with Sprint,” C Spire wrote.

Select critics have argued against the merger for a variety of reasons ranging from jobs to national security. The transaction must still receive approval from entities including the FCC and the Department of Justice.