State opposition ramps against T-Mobile/Sprint deal

The coalition of state attorneys general fighting T-Mobile and Sprint’s pending merger has grown, as Oregon on Monday joined the multistate lawsuit to block the more than $26 billion deal.

Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum in statement echoed other states’ concerns about increased prices if the tie-up between the nation’s third- and fourth-wireless carriers is consummated under current terms agreed upon with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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“It’s important that Oregon join other states in opposing the Sprint-T-Mobile merger,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “If left unchallenged, the current plan will result in reduced access to affordable wireless service in Oregon — and higher prices. Neither is acceptable.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in June, and now involves 16 AGs, led by those representing California, New York and Texas. Texas joined the coalition of states and the District of Columbia at the beginning of August, giving the effort a Republican ally.  

“Oregon’s addition to our lawsuit keeps our momentum going, and ensures that there isn’t a single region of this country that doesn’t oppose this anticompetitive megamerger,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, in a statement. “We remain committed to blocking the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint because it would bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation.”

James noted that states involved in the suit now represent nearly half of the U.S. population.

The DoJ blessed the merger earlier this summer following a settlement that includes a deal for new T-Mobile to divest prepaid and spectrum assets to Dish Network in an effort to set up the satellite TV provider as a fourth national carrier.

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Still, the current deal has Dish operating as an MVNO, using T-Mobile’s network for several years until the satellite TV provider builds out its own 5G network. Critics have questioned Dish’s credibility as a true fourth competitor and others, including WISPA have called on the FCC to open a new public comment period on the new developments related to the T-Mobile/Sprint deal.

In addition to the Dish deal, T-Mobile and Sprint previously committed not to raise prices for three years following deal close, to expand broadband access in rural areas, and eventually deliver nationwide 5G coverage.

Even with the DoJ greenlight, states’ opposition to the deal remains a major hurdle that must be resolved before the transaction can close. The trial start date was recently pushed back until Dec. 9 from the earlier Oct. 7 date.

RELATED: Trial delay worse for Sprint and Dish than T-Mobile: analyst

New Street Research analysts noted earlier this month that merger-related uncertainty and delays stand to impact Sprint and Dish more severely than T-Mobile, which continued to report strong customer and financial metrics in recent second-quarter earnings in the midst of the merger drama. 

Sprint is having trouble executing and can’t invest long-term as long as the merger is pending, while Dish is unable to move forward with investments or build outs for its new wireless efforts, the firm indicated.