Dish, others make final stand against Sprint/T-Mobile merger

The formal comment period on the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile closed yesterday at the FCC, and Dish Network was among a number of entities voicing loud and stiff opposition to the transaction.

“The proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint (together, the ‘Applicants’) will create a national mobile voice/broadband market controlled by three companies, lead to excessive concentration in other relevant markets, and increase prices for consumers. The Applicants have not come close to demonstrating that the merger as currently proposed would serve the public interest. In many respects, the Opposition, as well as the internal documents produced by the Applicants, set their case back significantly,” Dish wrote.

In its 240-page filing on the topic, submitted yesterday and published in full at the end of this article, Dish outlined a lengthy argument against the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. Among many other points, Dish contended that the merger would result in price increases for customers and would not result in a significantly better network than if the two companies remained separate.

Among Dish’s many conclusions:

  • “By Facilitating Coordination, The Proposed Merger Would Have Worse Effects Than Those Of The Previously Proposed AT&T/T-Mobile Deal.”

  • “Almost None Of The $43.6 Billion In Claimed Private Cost Synergies Can Be Recognized Under the Public Interest Standard.”

  • “5G Deployment Is Not A Merger Benefit.”

“The resulting benefits, if any, are dwarfed by any reasonable estimate of the merger’s price impact: higher prices, even on a per unit basis. Such price increases are clearly not in the public interest,” Dish concluded.

Dish’s latest filing largely underscores the initial arguments the company made in August.

Dish’s opposition to the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile is also noteworthy in light of T-Mobile’s recent call for the FCC to strip Dish of its vast spectrum holdings because Dish has no immediate plans to build out much of its spectrum.

Dish, T-Mobile argued just last week, “intends to continue to warehouse spectrum with no benefit to consumers. The [FCC’s Wireless] Bureau should not permit Dish to succeed with its plan.”

Nonetheless, Dish wasn’t the only entity registering its continued opposition to the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile yesterday.

“In our initial comments, we estimated that the proposed merger would result in the loss of more than 28,000 jobs," wrote the Communications Workers of America in its own filing (PDF). "CWA’s initial analysis was, if anything, too conservative. We have refined our analysis with additional data, and show in these Reply Comments that the merger is likely to eliminate 30,000 jobs.”

Separately, the NTCA contended the merger would affect smaller, rural providers by reducing the number of companies they can roam with.

“In response to NTCA’s concerns about the loss of focus on rural partnerships, Applicants pledge that New T-Mobile will have a roaming program that offers carriers with existing roaming agreements with either T-Mobile or Sprint ‘to determine which rates will govern their relationship with New T-Mobile,’” NTCA wrote (PDF). “However, Applicants offer no assurances that New T-Mobile will honor terms beyond rates or that agreements will be renewed upon expiration. In other words, Applicants’ only response is to promise that they will adhere to existing contracts to which they are otherwise bound in any event—hardly, a proactive program for promoting partnerships and greater coverage in rural America.”

Similarly, the Rural Wireless Association argued the combined carrier wouldn't provide much service in rural areas. "Applicants’ rural buildout claims are not supported in the record. Applicants’ own filings show that the New T-Mobile would only provide marginally better broadband options than standalone T-Mobile in much of rural America. In fact, for the great majority of rural Americans, the level of coverage and capacity would be similar for New T-Mobile as it would be for standalone T-Mobile," the association wrote.

And public-interest group Free Press called (PDF) the proposed transaction “despicable” and said that it would be “disastrous for the millions of people who rely on mobile broadband for access to healthcare, education, employment, news and much more. This deal would be especially harmful for low-income people and communities of color—expanding the digital divide that Chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly said he wants to eliminate.”

T-Mobile’s John Legere, for his part, remained optimistic about the deal during his company’s quarterly conference call with investors this week.

“We continue to expect this merger to close in the first half of 2019. In the meantime, we look forward to continuing to work with the regulators to share our story about how this merger will be good for consumers and good for the country,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks.