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US Justice Dept set to decide on Sprint, T-Mobile merger as soon as next week

WASHINGTON: The Us Justice Department is set to decide as early as next week whether to approve the $26.5 billion merger of wireless carriers T-Mobile USA and Sprint Corp, a person briefed on the matter said.

Earlier this week, Dish Network Corp executives met with the Justice Department’s antitrust chief Makan Delrahim and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai as part of the government’s review of the deal, which could dramatically reshape the Us wireless market.

A federal filing on Friday revealed Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen was among the executives who attended the meeting on Tuesday, and the firm “discussed its opposition to the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile as currently constructed.” Dish “explained the need for a minimum of four nationwide mobile network operators,” according to the filing, and also discussed “the impact of the proposed merger on Dish’s market entry and its wireless buildout plans.” Pai agreed last month to support the merger of the third- and fourth-largest Us wireless carriers, in part because the firms agreed to divest the prepaid service Boost Mobile.

Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, T-Mobile and Sprint control more than 98 per cent of the Us wireless market and have wireless service revenues of more than $160 billion. T-Mobile and Sprint combined have more than 135 million customers, while Verizon and AT&T control two-thirds of the total Us wireless market.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican like Pai, has said he backs the merger while a third commissioner, Mike O’Rielly, said he is inclined to support the deal.

The Justice Department wants the companies to sell off additional assets including some wireless spectrum to create a new wireless competitor before agreeing to approve the deal, the person briefed on the matter said.

Both the FCC and Justice Department want to create a fourth wireless competitor and Dish, Altice USA Inc and Charter Communications Inc are potential acquirers of Boost and potentially some spectrum, the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. — Reuters

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