United States Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said this week that he would recommend approval of the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint (via Bloomberg). The news comes after T-Mobile and Sprint announced changes to their $26.5 billion merger agreement, including the sale of the prepaid brand Boost Mobile, a three-year buildout of their 5G network, and a pledge not to raise prices while the network is being built.
Under the new plan, the companies will sell off Sprint’s Boost Mobile brand, but keep Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile’s Metro brand. If Sprint and T-Mobile had kept all three, they would have owned the largest chunk of the prepaid cellular market in the United States, totaling about 42 percent of the market.
“Two of the FCC’s top priorities are closing the digital divide in rural America and advancing United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity,” Pai said in a statement Monday. “The commitments made today by T-Mobile and Sprint would substantially advance each of these critical objectives.”
If completed, the new combined company would ditch the Sprint name and be called T-Mobile, and current T-Mobile CEO John Legere would serve as the Chief Executive Officer. Sprint and T-Mobile have said the new company will be a “force for positive change” in the U.S. wireless, video, and broadband industries, supercharging T-Mobile’s Un-carrier strategy and allowing it to “lead in the 5G era.”
Although Pai’s approval is a big step, the merger still needs to be approved by the full FCC board and the Department of Justice. In April, Sprint and T-Mobile announced a deadline extension for the merger to July 29, 2019.