With closing arguments set for this coming Wednesday in the trial that will determine the fate of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, a federal judge says that he will accept comments from third-parties via an amicus curiae or friends of the court brief. Reuters reports that Judge Timothy Kelly, who will be assessing the Justice Department's approval of the merger, said that he would consider accepting such briefs for his review.
Judge Kelly did place some limits on the submissions stating that they should be capped at 20 pages and should not repeat previous arguments made to the DOJ since he already has access to those. During a hearing held on Friday, the judge said, "I want to give (third-parties) a reasonable opportunity to be heard." Additionally, Judge Kelly approved the choice of Facebook's former general counsel, Theodore Ullyot, to be the monitoring trustee in case the merger is approved. Ullyot will oversee the merger and divestiture process according to a court filing.
Dish Network CEO Ergen says that it will be ready to serve wireless consumes "from day one"
Sprint and T-Mobile went to the regulatory agencies back in 2014 and proposed a merger; their response led the companies to drop the idea until it resurfaced in a whole different form in 2018.The Justice Department originally was against the combination of the nation's third and fourth-largest wireless providers. The concern the agency had was that by reducing the number of major wireless carriers in the country from four to three, there would be less competition in the industry. This would allow the surviving companies to hike prices. This argument has been used quite often by those opposed to the merger including the state attorneys general who are the plaintiffs in the current bench trial. The FCC and the DOJ used the very same argument when
To get around the DOJ's objections, Sprint last year entered into a deal with Dish Network. Once the T-Mobile-Sprint merger closes, the satellite television provider will pay $5 billion to Sprint for the latter's prepaid businesses and other assets. The unit includes 9.3 million customers and Boost Mobile. In preparation for the merger, this past week Sprint said that it is moving Virgin Mobile customers to Boost to form "one cohesive, efficient and effective prepaid team." The migration will begin the week of February 2nd and is designed to make it easier for Dish to acquire the unit.
As part of the deal with Sprint, Dish will take control over 14MHz of 800MHz spectrum (Dish already owns a decent amount of 600MHz low-band spectrum that it might lease to T-Mobile), 400 employees, and 7,500 retail locations. Dish will also sign a seven-year MVNO agreement with T-Mobile allowing it to sell wireless service under its name immediately while building a standalone 5G network. While testifying under oath during the trial, Dish Chairman Charles Ergen said that Dish will be ready to step in as a replacement for Sprint "on day one." Dish will need a deep-pocketed partner to help it build its 5G network. Companies like Google, Apple and Amazon have been rumored to be possible partners.
T-Mobile has made it clear that the merger is all about 5G. The company covets Sprint's mid-band 2.5GHz spectrum. Such airwaves are not easy for wireless operators to obtain in the U.S.; T-Mobile CEO John Legere pointed out that with the merger T-Mobile will have "triple the total 5G capacity of standalone T-Mobile and Sprint combined." he stated. On the other hand, Legere says that if the deal is blocked, in some markets T-Mobile will "exhaust capacity in the next two to four years."
Friends of the court briefs are submitted by third parties with an interest in the outcome of a case. U.S. consumers who subscribe to a major wireless provider could be considered to have an interest in how the court rules. After both sides present closing arguments on Wednesday, Judge Vincent Marrero is expected to make a ruling early in February.