U.S. Justice Department ‘Leaning Against’ Approving T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

The United States Justice Department is "leaning against" approving the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, reports Bloomberg.

The merger might not be approved because the two companies "don't go far enough" to resolve antitrust concerns raised by the U.S. government.


Bloomberg's report comes shortly after United States Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai said that he would recommend approval of the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.

T-Mobile and Sprint have implemented changes to their merger to allay concerns, including the sale of Boost Mobile, a three-year buildout of a 5G network, and a pledge not to raise prices while the network is being built, but these steps may not be enough to earn approval.

Back in April, there were reports suggesting the DoJ had told Sprint and T-Mobile that the merger would not be approved as it was originally structured, which prompted the plans to sell Boost Mobile.

Sprint and T-Mobile first announced a merger agreement in April 2018, but the completion of the merger requires the government to approve the deal. A merger between Sprint and T-Mobile would combine two of the four major carriers in the U.S., and it would use the T-Mobile name.

The two companies would have close to 100 million customers, putting it second only to Verizon. The U.S. DoJ is concerned the deal would be a major threat to competition.

Sprint and T-Mobile planned to have the merger completed no later than the first half of 2019, but that date was pushed back to late July earlier this year.


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Proposed T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Gains Support From FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

United States Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said this week that he would recommend approval of the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint (via Bloomberg). The news comes after T-Mobile and Sprint announced changes to their $26.5 billion merger agreement, including the sale of the prepaid brand Boost Mobile, a three-year buildout of their 5G network, and a pledge not to raise prices while the network is being built.


Under the new plan, the companies will sell off Sprint's Boost Mobile brand, but keep Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile's Metro brand. If Sprint and T-Mobile had kept all three, they would have owned the largest chunk of the prepaid cellular market in the United States, totaling about 42 percent of the market.
“Two of the FCC’s top priorities are closing the digital divide in rural America and advancing United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity,” Pai said in a statement Monday. “The commitments made today by T-Mobile and Sprint would substantially advance each of these critical objectives.”
If completed, the new combined company would ditch the Sprint name and be called T-Mobile, and current T-Mobile CEO John Legere would serve as the Chief Executive Officer. Sprint and T-Mobile have said the new company will be a "force for positive change" in the U.S. wireless, video, and broadband industries, supercharging T-Mobile's Un-carrier strategy and allowing it to "lead in the 5G era."

Although Pai's approval is a big step, the merger still needs to be approved by the full FCC board and the Department of Justice. In April, Sprint and T-Mobile announced a deadline extension for the merger to July 29, 2019.


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FCC Questions U.S. Carriers on Phone Location Data Sales Practices

The United States Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday sent out letters to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint questioning the carriers about their data selling practices, reports Motherboard.

The carriers have been found selling real-time location information from customer devices to data aggregators, leading the location data to end up in the hands of private investigators, bounty hunters, law enforcement, credit companies, and more.


Companies like LocationSmart and Zumigo obtained location information from U.S.-based cellular carriers and passed that data on to dozens of other companies, putting real-time customer location information in the hands of those who should not have it.

After coming under scrutiny for their location sharing practices, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile, pledged to stop doing so, but many had not actually stopped entirely as of January.

The FCC is now demanding answers from the four carriers. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel asked the heads of each company to provide details on whether the data aggregators were allowed to save phone location data and what steps carriers are going to take to make sure shared data has been deleted. From the letter to AT&T:
Real-time location information is sensitive data deserving the highest level of privacy protection. But it is evident from press reports that this data may have been sold without the explicit consent of consumers and without appropriate safeguards in place.

Accordingly, I appreciate your decision to end these location aggregation services by March of this year. To that end, I kindly request that you provide an update on your efforts and confirm by what date AT&T ended its arrangements to sell the location data of its customers. Please also confirm whether and by what date the company ended arrangements to sell assisted or augmented GPS data.

Finally, the public still has very little detail about how much geolocation data is being saved and stored-including in ways that may be far too accessible to others. Even de-anonymized location data may be combined with other information in ways that could make it personally identifiable again. Accordingly, please explain whether AT&T's agreements permitted aggregators or others to save and store location data they received from your company. If so, please confirm what steps your company is taking to ensure that these companies delete or destroy previously shared data and any derivative data. Alternatively, please explain what steps AT&T is taking to safeguard such data from use or onward sale that is inconsistent with consumers' original content.
Similar letters were also sent to Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile, and all four carriers have been asked to provide responses to the FCC by May 15, 2019.


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Sprint and T-Mobile Extend Merger Deadline to June 29

Sprint and T-Mobile have announced an agreement to extend the deadline for their proposed $26 billion merger deal to July 29 (via Reuters).

The extension was revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and means that the two carriers now have more time to get the proposed merger approved by both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.


The Justice Department's antitrust division has been exploring whether the deal would result in a major threat to competition. Earlier this month, Justice Department staff members reportedly told Sprint and T-Mobile that their planned merger is unlikely to be approved as it is currently structured.

However, in an interview on CNBC, Justice Department Antitrust Division chief Makan Delrahim said he had not made a decision regarding the T-Mobile and Sprint merger and is waiting for more information from the two companies.
"I have not made up my mind," he told CNBC. "The investigation continues. We've requested some data from the companies that will be forthcoming. We don't have a set number of meetings or a time line."

"If the case is there for us to challenge a transaction or suggest changes, we will do that," he said. The division is reviewing the argument that the deal would allow the combined company to produce a better, faster 5G, the next generation of wireless, he added.
T-Mobile and Sprint first announced plans for a merger in April 2018. If approved, the merger will combine two of the four major wireless carriers in the United States, giving the new company nearly 100 million customers.

With discussions ongoing, Sprint and T-Mobile may be willing to offer concessions that include assets sales to get the government to approve the merger plans.

However, other challenges await the two carriers, with multiple state attorneys prepared to launch lawsuits if the Justice Department doesn't end up challenging the merger, according to sources that spoke to The Wall Street Journal.


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Sprint and T-Mobile Extend Merger Deadline to July 29

Sprint and T-Mobile have announced an agreement to extend the deadline for their proposed $26 billion merger deal to July 29 (via Reuters).

The extension was revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and means that the two carriers now have more time to get the proposed merger approved by both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.


The Justice Department's antitrust division has been exploring whether the deal would result in a major threat to competition. Earlier this month, Justice Department staff members reportedly told Sprint and T-Mobile that their planned merger is unlikely to be approved as it is currently structured.

However, in an interview on CNBC, Justice Department Antitrust Division chief Makan Delrahim said he had not made a decision regarding the T-Mobile and Sprint merger and is waiting for more information from the two companies.
"I have not made up my mind," he told CNBC. "The investigation continues. We've requested some data from the companies that will be forthcoming. We don't have a set number of meetings or a time line."

"If the case is there for us to challenge a transaction or suggest changes, we will do that," he said. The division is reviewing the argument that the deal would allow the combined company to produce a better, faster 5G, the next generation of wireless, he added.
T-Mobile and Sprint first announced plans for a merger in April 2018. If approved, the merger will combine two of the four major wireless carriers in the United States, giving the new company nearly 100 million customers.

With discussions ongoing, Sprint and T-Mobile may be willing to offer concessions that include assets sales to get the government to approve the merger plans.

However, other challenges await the two carriers, with multiple state attorneys prepared to launch lawsuits if the Justice Department doesn't end up challenging the merger, according to sources that spoke to The Wall Street Journal.


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AT&T and Sprint Settle Lawsuit Over Misleading ‘5GE’ Label for AT&T’s 4G Network

AT&T and Sprint have settled a lawsuit that Sprint levied against AT&T for its misleading "5G Evolution" or "5GE" branding that AT&T uses for its upgraded 4G LTE network.

A spokesperson for AT&T today told Law360 that the matter has been "amicably settled." Details on the terms of the settlement have not been shared, but AT&T is planning to continue to use its 5GE branding.


AT&T earlier this year began displaying a 5GE icon on some iPhone and Android smartphones. 5GE is AT&T's misleading name for an enhanced 4G LTE network and is not actual 5G connectivity, which incensed Sprint.

After AT&T rolled out the 5GE terminology, Sprint filed a lawsuit in federal court against AT&T in an attempt to prevent AT&T from using 5GE labeling. Sprint accused AT&T of damaging the consumer reputation and understanding of true 5G and potentially hurting Sprint's planned 5G rollout this summer.

Sprint also took out a full page ad in The New York Times to call AT&T out for the misleading labeling, calling 5GE "fake 5G." From Sprint's ad:
While Sprint is working hard to deliver mobile 5G and the first 5G smartphone in the U.S., AT&T is hard at work trying to convince you that they already won the race to 5G with something they call "5G Evolution." That is simply untrue.

Don't be fooled. 5G Evolution isn't new or true 5G. It is fake 5G.

They would love for you to believe they are different ... better. The truth is AT&T is simply offering customers a nationwide 4G LTE network just like Sprint and all the other major wireless carriers. It's not 5G.
AT&T uses 5GE for its 4G LTE networks that offer features like three-way carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, and 4x4 MIMO to provide faster connection speeds to consumers. These features are in no way limited to AT&T and are offered by other carriers, but no other carrier is using fake 5G branding.

Unsurprisingly, speed tests have confirmed that AT&T's 5GE service is no faster than LTE from Verizon and T-Mobile.

AT&T has defended its 5GE branding by calling 5G Evolution "first step on the road to 5G" and by claiming that customers "love" the 5GE branding because they "want and deserve to know" when "better speeds" are available.
"We understand why our competitors don't like what we are doing, but our customers love it. We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G. 5G Evolution and the 5GE indicator simply let customers know when their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available. That's what 5G Evolution is, and we are delighted to deliver it to our customers.
Smartphones that support true 5G connectivity are only now just beginning to trickle out, and Apple isn't expected to launch one until 2020. No existing iPhone will be able to connect to a 5G network because it requires new hardware.

5G networks from the four major carriers in the United States are going to be available starting in 2019, but expanded coverage and full rollouts will take some time.


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T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Unlikely to Be Approved as Currently Structured

United States Justice Department staff members told Sprint and T-Mobile that their planned merger is unlikely to be approved as it is currently structured, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The merger agreement between the two companies hinges on approval from the Justice Department's antitrust division, which has been exploring whether the deal would result in a major threat to competition.

In a meeting earlier this month, Justice Department staff members laid out their concerns with the all-stock deal and questioned the companies' arguments that the combination would produce important efficiencies for the merged firm, the people said.
Sprint and T-Mobile have other hurdles to overcome as well. Multiple state attorneys are prepared to launch lawsuits if the Justice Department doesn't end up challenging the merger, according to sources that spoke to The Wall Street Journal.

The FCC has also been asking the two companies for more information on topics like cost savings and wireless infrastructure plans.

A final decision "likely several weeks away" and ultimately, the staff position on the matter is a recommendation that can be overruled by the Justice Department leaders.

Discussions are ongoing and Sprint and T-Mobile may be willing to offer concessions that include assets sales to get the government to approve the merger plans.

T-Mobile and Sprint first announced plans for a merger in April 2018. If approved, the merger will combine two of the four major carriers in the United States, giving the new company nearly 100 million customers.


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Sprint Takes Out Full Page NYT Ad Calling Out AT&T for Misleading 5GE Branding

Sprint on Sunday took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to call out AT&T for its "5GE" network labeling, which actually offers 4G speeds rather than 5G speeds.

In the letter [PDF], Sprint calls AT&T's 5G Evolution "fake 5G" and clarifies that AT&T is not, in fact, offering faster speeds than other carriers who deliver the same 4G LTE advancements that AT&T has enabled such as three-way carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, and 4x4 MIMO.

While Sprint is working hard to deliver mobile 5G and the first 5G smartphone in the U.S., AT&T is hard at work trying to convince you that they already won the race to 5G with something they call "5G Evolution." That is simply untrue.

Don't be fooled. 5G Evolution isn't new or true 5G. It is fake 5G.

They would love for you to believe they are different ... better. The truth is AT&T is simply offering customers a nationwide 4G LTE network just like Sprint and all the other major wireless carriers. It's not 5G.
AT&T first started upgrading customer iPhones to read "5GE" in the iOS 12.2 beta, and the misleading branding will become much more widespread when iOS 12.2 sees a public release.

Devices in areas with AT&T's "upgraded" LTE will display "5GE" instead of LTE, but it's not real 5G. There is no iPhone that exists right now that is capable of connecting to a 5G network, nor does AT&T offer a true 5G network at this time.

AT&T has defended itself by claiming that 5G Evolution is the "first step on the road to 5G," but customers and other carriers are not impressed with its misleading branding that has the potential to confuse customers when actual 5G networks become available. AT&T has, however, claimed that customers "love" the 5GE branding because they "want and deserve to know" when "better speeds" are available.
"We understand why our competitors don't like what we are doing, but our customers love it. We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G. 5G Evolution and the 5GE indicator simply let customers know when their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available. That's what 5G Evolution is, and we are delighted to deliver it to our customers.
Sprint has done more than just take out an ad against AT&T. In early February, Sprint filed a lawsuit in federal court against AT&T in an attempt to prevent AT&T from using the 5GE labeling on AT&T smartphones. Sprint says AT&T is damaging the consumer reputation and understanding of true 5G and potentially hurting Sprint's 5G launch this summer in nine metro areas.

True 5G smartphones won't be coming until later in 2019, and the 5G networks to support them also won't be available until later in the year. Rumors suggest Apple isn't planning to introduce 5G connectivity on its iPhones until 2020 at the earliest, so 5G is not a technology iPhone users will be able to take advantage of in 2019.

Tags: Sprint, AT&T, 5G, 5GE

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Sprint to Start Rolling Out 5G Network in May, T-Mobile Delays Until Second Half of 2019

Sprint today at Mobile World Congress announced that its commercial 5G network will launch in May, starting in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City. The carrier plans to expand service to Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. in the first half of 2019.


5G coverage will initially be limited to select areas of each city:
At launch, Sprint's highly mobile, on-the-go customers can expect mobile 5G coverage ranging from nearly 30 square miles covering Midtown and lower Manhattan, to approximately 230 square miles spanning the greater Dallas Fort Worth area, for a total initial 5G coverage footprint of more than 1,000 square miles across all nine cities.
Sprint plans to build a nationwide 5G network in partnership with T-Mobile should the proposed merger of the two companies be approved.


Sprint said its first 5G smartphone will be the new dual-screen LG V50 ThinQ 5G unveiled at Mobile World Congress this week, followed by the HTC 5G Hub hotspot in the spring and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in the summer.

Sprint also announced that it will offer 5G service to Google Fi customers with a compatible device, but there is no timeframe for the rollout.

Sprint's network will operate on the 2.5GHz spectrum and use Massive MIMO radio equipment supplied by Samsung, rather than use millimeter wave technology. Sprint chief technology officer John Saw said the carrier saw speeds of 430 Mbps in one demo, according to The Verge, significantly faster than LTE.

Update: T-Mobile has delayed the launch of its own 5G network until the second half of 2019, according to CNET.

Tags: Sprint, 5G

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AT&T Sued by Sprint for Misleading ‘5GE’ Branding

Sprint has filed a lawsuit in federal court against AT&T for its false "5G Evolution" claims that appeared on some iPhones in iOS 12.2 beta 2 earlier this week, and on Android phones in January (via Engadget). AT&T says that this "5GE" label indicates to customers when they are in an area where 5G Evolution "may be available," but it's really just an upgraded version of 4G LTE, because any form of 5G on an iPhone is impossible at this point.


Apple will have to release new hardware to support 5G services, a launch that isn't expected until 2020. Because of this, Sprint has filed an injunction to prevent AT&T from using 5GE tags on its devices or in advertising, claiming that AT&T is damaging the consumer reputation and understanding of true 5G, and potentially hurting Sprint's upcoming launch of 5G in the process.

In the claim, Sprint explains that it commissioned a survey and found that 54 percent of consumers believed that the "5GE" networks were the same as, or even better, than true 5G. Forty-three percent thought that if they purchased an AT&T smartphone today it will be 5G capable, both of which are not true.

Now, Sprint wants to stop AT&T from damaging the 5G brand while it builds a "legitimate early entry into the 5G network space." Like every other network carrier, Sprint has been working on a wide-scale 5G network that has previously been said to launch in late 2019. True 5G networks will grant users faster data speeds and lower latency on compatible smartphones and other cellular devices.

For Apple, the company won't release an iPhone that can connect to 5G data networks until at least 2020. While other companies will begin supporting 5G in smartphones in 2019, Apple is delaying support due to expected issues with early 5G launches, like poor coverage. Apple took the same strategy during the launch of 3G and 4G, the two previous generations of high-speed mobile services.

Tags: Sprint, AT&T, 5GE

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