Commerce Committee Should Scrutinize T-Mobile Merger With Sprint, Senate Democrats Say

The Senate Commerce Committee should examine whether T-Mobile's proposed $26 billion acquisition of Sprint will result in price hikes and less choices for consumers, five Democrats say.

The proposed merger, announced last April, would leave the country with just three major wireless carriers -- all roughly the same size. T-Mobile and Sprint combined have around 100 million wireless customers, while Verizon has roughly 116 million and AT&T has around 93 million.

Senate Democrats say the potential consolidation raises questions that should be addressed by the Commerce Committee -- especially given recent moves by Sprint and T-Mobile that appeared to offer benefits for consumers. Among others, decisions by Sprint and T-Mobile to roll out more generous data plans appear to have spurred Verizon and AT&T to follow suit.

“Both T-Mobile and Sprint consistently offer competitive products that have exerted pressure on AT&T and Verizon to offer more consumer-friendly data plans and eliminate restrictive long-term contracts,” Senators Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Tom Udall (New Mexicon), Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) say in a letter to leaders of the Commerce Committee. “We should examine the impact of combining these two disruptors into one mega company.”

T-Mobile and Sprint have said they plan to invest nearly $40 billion to roll out a nationwide 5G network after the merger. The companies have argued that their new network will offer 5G speeds four to six times faster than each company could achieve independently, which will spur competition by forcing Verizon and AT&T to improve their own networks.

But the lawmakers say those assertions require more scrutiny. “This Committee should evaluate T-Mobile and Sprint's current 5G claims and the consequences this merger would have on American wireless network innovation,” the letter says.

Advocacy groups have also raised concerns about the merger. In November, Public Knowledge, Open Markets Institute, Common Cause, Consumers Union and Writers Guild of America urged the Federal Communications Commission to reject the deal.

T-Mobile and Sprint have tried to join forces before. In 2014, Sprint had agreed to acquire T-Mobile for around $32 billion, but federal regulators blocked the merger due to antitrust concerns. Three years earlier, the federal government prevented T-Mobile from being acquired by AT&T.

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