Sprint and T-Mobile will file documents with the FCC Monday that will essentially open the transaction for commentary from the public and set the stage for the agency to issue a red or green light on the merger.
The FCC’s new 18-197 docket stands as the official home for documents relating to the proposed transaction. “On June 14, 2018, T-Mobile and Sprint informed the Commission that on June 18, 2018, they plan on filing applications seeking Commission approval to transfer control to T-Mobile of the licenses and authorizations held by Sprint and its wholly-owned and controlled subsidiaries,” the FCC wrote (PDF). “The purpose of this public notice is to announce the opening of a docket, WT Docket No. 18-197, and articulate the ex parte status of discussions related to the proposed transaction.”
In a separate filing, the FCC granted (PDF) the companies’ request to withhold “competitively sensitive information” from the proceeding, a common request in such procedures.
The filing is not a surprise; Reuters on Friday reported that Sprint and T-Mobile would be formally filing their merger application with the FCC Monday.
Although Wall Street analysts haven’t given Sprint and T-Mobile very good odds to get their proposed merger approved, news last week that AT&T was successful in completing its acquisition of Time Warner may change that calculus. Indeed, AT&T's wireless network was central to the arguments that ultimately convinced Judge Richard Leon to rule in favor of AT&T and Time Warner. AT&T told the court that the future of video is wireless and the future of wireless is video.
For Sprint and T-Mobile, the companies have positioned their own merger argument on two pillars: 5G and jobs. The companies said a merger between the two companies would create a 5G powerhouse that could help the United States deploy 5G technology more effectively, thereby allowing the country to counter the rise of 5G heavyweight China.
And Sprint and T-Mobile executives have also argued that a merged company would actually employ more Americans than the two companies separately would.
Both of those arguments dovetail with priorities espoused by the Trump administration.
However, the Sprint and T-Mobile merger has received criticism from public interest groups and others. Most recently, the National Wireless Independent Dealer Association argued the transaction would stand as a “devastating blow” to prepaid customers, MVNOs and wireless dealers.