The planned $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint has been approved by the Justice Department and the FCC, but it's not a sure thing yet. To sweeten the deal, T-Mobile is dangling three big free and cheap data initiatives that will only go through if the merger does. A little sugar helps the medicine go down.
Contingent on creating the "New T-Mobile," there are three big moves planned, all of which, to be fair, sound great:
- 10 years of free 5G for all police, fire, emergency medical services and other first responders countrywide
- Free wireless service and reduced cost devices to 10 million disconnected households in the U.S. and Puerto Rico
- New $15/month prepaid plan with unlimited talk and text and 2GB of data
Obviously these are all aimed at making it seem like T-Mobile is concerned with the public good. And no one is disputing that these programs would help a lot of people out. It just feels like such a transparent play to balance out the anti-competitive risks of the merger.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Stark speculated in his dissent from yesterday's approval decision that the merger would lead to three 900-pound gorillas that would "divide up the market, increase prices, and compete only for the most lucrative customers."
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, on the other hand, asserts that the merger "will provide New T-Mobile with the scale and spectrum resources necessary to deploy a robust 5G network across the United States," and make it competitive with Verizon and AT&T. (Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon Media, but this does not affect our coverage.)
Although the regulatory hurdles are out of the way, the merger still faces a lawsuit from a collection of states that oppose the deal. That's due to go to court soon, but may be either dismissed or delayed due to the fact that the complaints were filed before the Justice and FCC approvals, and the stipulations with which that came.