The Federal Communications Commission has officially given the T-Mobile Sprint merger its final stamp of approval.
If this sounds like deja vu, it’s because the FCC actually voted 3-2 to approve the merger back in October after it spent more than a year in regulatory limbo. But on Tuesday, the Commission actually gave its formal green light to the $26 billion deal.
In a press statement, the FCC said it believes the merger will “close digital divide and promote wide deployment of 5G services.” The Commission also says that the merger will actually “enhance competition.”
T-Mobile and Sprint, who will team up as The New T-Mobile, have previously pledged to implement 5G service that will cover 97 percent of Americans within three years.
The carriers also promised to provide 90 percent of Americans with access to mobile data speeds of at least 100 Mbps within six years.
The FCC vote is actually conditional and stipulates that The New T-Mobile makes good on those promises. If it doesn’t, the firm may be fined more than $2 billion.
There are other requirements for The New T-Mobile, too. The Department of Justice required that Sprint sell a good portion of its cellular assets to Dish — which will then become the fourth-largest carrier.
It isn’t surprising that the FCC gave the deal the go-ahead. Back in May, Commissioner Ajit Pai signaled that he would vote to approve the deal. While the other two Republicans on the Commission agreed, the two Democrats voted against the merger.
Despite what the FCC’s news release says, Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks expressed skepticism about the merger. In an op-ed for The Atlantic, Rosenworcel even argued that The New T-Mobile would drive up prices and ultimately hurt competition.
The roadblocks haven’t all disappeared, however. There is still a multi-state lawsuit that could block the deal, and both T-Mobile and Spirit have said that it must be resolved before moving forward.
Still, it seems that both companies expect that the merger will proceed. In a tweet, T-Mobile CEO John Legere remained upbeat about the deal.