The Federal Communications Commission announced today that it will pause the so-called shot clock on its 180-day review period for the Sprint and T-Mobile merger. The shot clock in question is an informal six-month deadline for approval from when the merger was first announced (again) in April of this year.
The FCC says it now “additional time is necessary to allow for thorough staff and third-party review of newly submitted and anticipated modeling.” The letter is penned by David Lawrence, the director of the T-Mobile / Sprint Transaction Task Force, and Donald Stockdale, the chief of Wireless Telecommunication Bureau.
The two companies, when combined, would still have less than the number of customers subscribed to both AT&T and Verizon. However, Sprint and T-Mobile leadership have said merging would allow the US to better compete with other countries at deploying robust mobile 5G networks, and that allowing the two companies to combine would help with the rollout of those networks at a pace comparable to AT&T and Verizon’s. Earlier today, Verizon announced the first-ever commercial 5G network, for home broadband internet, would launch on October 1st in four US cities.
With regard to the pause of the shot clock, the commission is mostly taking issue with how late in the process it has received key information related to Sprint and T-Mobile’s proposed network engineering model and buildout; a T-Mobile financial model for how it plans to pay for the networking engineering model that the telecom is calling “Build 9”; and additional economic modeling from T-Mobile. It received much of the information about these issues on September 5th, the letter explains.
“Considering the complexity and potential importance of these newly-provided and expected models, it is appropriate to stop the informal 180-day clock to allow time for their review,” writes Lawrence and Stockdale. “The clock will remain stopped until the Applicants have completed the record on which they intend to rely and a reasonable period of time has passed for.staff and third-party review.”
The commission has done this in the past for other corporate mergers, and it is within the realm of possibility that it could still extend the deadline for reply comments following its third-party review of the new modeling. In a statement given to Engadget, T-Mobile said it’s “confident” the additional review will find the merger to beneficial:
We appreciate that the FCC is taking the time necessary to fully understand the merits of the T-Mobile and Sprint merger. The additional review time is common to FCC merger reviews. We are confident that this transaction is pro-competitive, good for the country and good for American consumers. We look forward to working with the FCC as they evaluate our plans to rapidly roll out the country’s first broad and deep nationwide 5G network.