T-Mobile Says Big Fast Network a Reason to Approve Sprint Deal

(Bloomberg) -- T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. asked regulators to approve their merger, saying consumers will benefit from a faster network even as the $26.5 billion deal removes a competitor from the U.S. wireless market.

An enlarged T-Mobile can quickly build a next-generation -- so-called 5G -- network giving more people access to speedy broadband, the companies said in a document filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Monday. The application heralds months of scrutiny by competition and antitrust authorities.

T-Mobile, the fastest-growing of the four major U.S. wireless companies thanks to low prices and features such as free video, needs approval from the FCC and Justice Department. The combination of T-Mobile and smaller Sprint would have about 71 million wireless subscribers, compared with 77 million for AT&T Inc. and 111 million for Verizon Communications Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The merging companies have said that together they’d have strength to take on leaders Verizon and AT&T.

The promise of 5G may not be enough to carry the deal before regulators concerned that competition could be reduced by combining two of the top four mobile providers. Doubts have helped send shares of both T-Mobile and Sprint down since the deal was announced April 29.

Regulators discouraged an earlier dalliance between T-Mobile and Sprint, and in 2011 blocked larger AT&T’s attempt to buy T-Mobile, saying it was important to keep four competitors in the market.

Since then there’s been a change from Democratic to Republican leadership under President Donald Trump. The companies are betting they can persuade the new regulators, who include an antitrust chief who tried unsuccessfully tried to block AT&T’s purchase of WarnerMedia.

T-Mobile, based in Bellevue, Washington, faces a June 27 hearing before the U.S. Senate’s antitrust panel which could shed light on the degree of political opposition to the deal for Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kansas.

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