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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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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T-Mobile Gains Viacom Channels for Upcoming Live TV Service, Including MTV and Comedy Central

T-Mobile has inked a deal with Viacom that will bring the latter company's stable of TV channels to T-Mobile's upcoming over-the-top streaming service (via TechCrunch). Viacom owns a large variety of popular channels, including Comedy Central, BET, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, CMT, and Paramount Network.

An early mock-up of the T-Mobile live TV streaming service

Under the agreement, T-Mobile will be able to offer live feeds of these channels to its subscribers, as well as on-demand viewing for certain channels. Viacom has deals with a few other live TV streaming services, including DirecTV Now, Philo, and coming soon FuboTV. Viacom also purchased the streaming TV service PlutoTV earlier this year.

This makes Viacom a "cornerstone launch partner" for the upcoming T-Mobile streaming service, according to the company and CEO John Legere.
“Viacom represents the best of the best, most-popular brands on cable, so they are an amazing partner for us,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, in a statement.

“TV programming has never been better, but consumers are fed up with rising costs, hidden fees, lousy customer service, non-stop BS. And Macgyvering together a bunch of subscriptions, apps and dongles isn’t much better. That’s why T-Mobile is on a mission to give consumers a better way to watch what they want, when they want."
T-Mobile first announced its OTT TV service in December 2017, at the time stating that the plan was to launch in 2018 and create a product that would be a "disruptive" solution to rival services. Not much was heard about the service throughout 2018, and then in December the company confirmed that it would delay the service until 2019 because "the project proved much more complex than expected."

There are still very few details about the service, including a specific launch date or the price of its subscription packages. During the original announcement, T-Mobile said that its service will offer solutions to issues like increasing monthly bill costs, confusing bundles, and outdated user interfaces, which are seen on many current live TV streaming platforms.

When it launches, T-Mobile's service will enter a busy streaming TV market, which currently includes DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and many more. Companies are even beginning to offer internet streaming bundles that focus on catering to specific audiences, like Philo, which is aimed at viewers not interested in sports channels and offers much cheaper monthly costs.

The price of these services has also begun to go up over the past few months, most notably with DirecTV Now raising the prices of every plan by $10 and making the cheapest entry level plan $50/month (which was $35/month just one year ago). Likewise, FuboTV raised prices last month and hiked its entry level plan to $54.99/month, one of the most expensive entry prices among the major live TV streaming services.


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T-Mobile Offering iPhone XR at No Extra Cost When Adding New Lines and Trading in Old iPhone

T-Mobile kicked off a new promotion today that lets new and existing customers get the 64GB iPhone XR at no extra cost when they add new voice lines and trade in a qualifying device.


Specifically, the promotion is for up to $750 off the iPhone XR over 36 monthly bill credits at $20.84 per month. You can also put the $750 credit towards an iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max to reduce the price of the smartphones.

New customers will need to activate two new lines of qualifying service, one of which needs to be used with the new device being purchased. Existing T-Mobile customers will need to activate at least one new line of qualifying service to be used with the new device.

Secondly, you'll need to trade in one of the following eligible devices in good condition: iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6 Plus.

T-Mobile notes that this offer is available both in store nationwide and online at T-Mobile's website, but it'll only last for a limited time.


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T-Mobile Won’t Make Serious Push Into 5G Until Second Half of 2019

T-Mobile won't be making a serious push into launching and promoting its 5G network until the second half of 2019, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said in an interview shared by CNET today.

The carrier had initially planned to promote 5G in the first half of 2019, but it is delaying that rollout because smartphones able to take advantage of its 5G network won't be available until later.

Image via CNET

According to Ray, T-Mobile had hoped that smartphone makers and chip manufacturers would have 5G devices ready to use the lower-band 600 megahertz spectrum that will power much of its 5G network, but that hasn't quite happened. The company instead plans to "go big" with 5G later in 2019.

The 5G version of the Galaxy S10 from Samsung, which will come in April, offers millimeter wave support compatible with Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, but not T-Mobile. T-Mobile is deploying millimeter wave, but coverage at the moment is "too minimal for the company to promote."

T-Mobile is planning to use the 600MHz spectrum to power most of its 5G network because while it offers slower peak speeds, it provides better coverage than the millimeter wave spectrum that Verizon and AT&T are currently focusing on more heavily.

Early 5G devices like the Galaxy S10 5G will use millimeter wave spectrum. T-Mobile plans to sell the Galaxy S10 5G, but given that its millimeter wave deployment is so limited at this time, Ray is not sure the company will promote Samsung's newest smartphone.

CNET's original story suggested T-Mobile was delaying its 5G launch entirely, but Ray says that is not true. On Twitter, Ray clarified that 5G will still start rolling out in the first half of 2019, but that it will get "more meaningful" in the second half of the year when there are actual devices that can take advantage of the 600MHz 5G spectrum.


The network differences put T-Mobile a bit behind other cellular companies. AT&T has rolled out 5G in 12 cities, Verizon has a 5G home broadband service in a limited number of cities, and Sprint is planning to launch its 5G network in May.

T-Mobile isn't worried about AT&T and Verizon having an edge in the race to deploy 5G just because millimeter wave spectrum has such a limited range. "You can't go to a US consumer and charge them a big premium and it works on three street corners," Ray told CNET.

Full 5G rollout with faster overall speeds will require carriers to offer 5G connectivity across multiple spectrums, with the fastest, millimeter wave, limited to dense urban areas. AT&T is also planning to offer 5G on low-band spectrum starting in 2019, with nationwide coverage planned for 2020.

For Apple users, the 2019 rollout of 5G means little because there won't be iPhones able to use 5G networks until at least 2020. Rumors have suggested Apple won't introduce a 5G-capable iPhone in 2019, and Intel recently confirmed that its 5G hardware won't be in consumer products until 2020. Apple is currently using Intel's modem chips in its iPhone lineup due to an ongoing legal spat with Qualcomm.

Tags: T-Mobile, 5G

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U.S. DoJ Charges Chinese Smartphone Company Huawei With Stealing Trade Secrets and Fraud

The United States Justice Department today announced a series of criminal charges against Chinese smartphone maker Huawei for stealing trade secrets, bank fraud, wire fraud, and obstructing justice.

In the first of two indictments unsealed this afternoon, the Justice Department accuses Huawei, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, and two affiliates of bank and wire fraud.


Huawei is said to have misled a global bank and U.S. authorities about its relationship with subsidiaries Skycom and Huawei Device USA to conduct business in Iran despite sanctions, conducting millions of dollars in business. Huawei is accused of lying to the government, destroying documents, and attempting to move key Huawei employees back to China to impede the investigation.

A second indictment accuses Huawei of stealing trade secrets, wire fraud, and obstructing justice for stealing robotic technology from T-Mobile U.S. for testing smartphone durability.

Huawei violated confidentiality agreements with T-Mobile when it stole information on "Tappy," a T-Mobile robot designed to mimic human fingers to test smartphones back in 2012. Huawei employees secretly took photos of the robot, measured it, and stole components. T-Mobile won a $4.8 million lawsuit against Huawei in 2017 over the dispute.

All in all, the U.S. filed 10 charges related to trade secrets for the T-Mobile theft and 13 charges related to sanction violations against Huawei. The U.S. is seeking the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou from Canada, where she was arrested in December.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the charges levied against Huawei "expose brazen and persistent actions to exploit American companies and financial institutions and threaten the free and fair global marketplace."
As you can tell from the number and magnitude of the charges, Huawei and its senior executives repeatedly refused to respect U.S. law and standard international business practices. Huawei also intentionally and systematically sought to steal valuable intellectual property from an American company so it could circumvent hard-earned time consuming research and gain an unfair market advantage. [...]

As Americans, we should all be concerned about the potential for any company beholden to a foreign government - especially one that doesn't share our values -- to burrow into the American telecommunications market. Today's charges serve as a warning that the FBI does not - and will not -- tolerate businesses that violate our laws, obstruct our justice, and jeopardize our national security.
The charges filed today against Huawei will likely escalate U.S.-China tensions, though the Department of Justice said that the indictments are "wholly separate" from trade negotiations with China, which are set to continue this week.

The U.S. has already banned government employees and contractors from using devices from Huawei and ZTE, and legislation has been introduced that would ban the export of U.S. parts and components to Chinese telecommunications companies in violation of U.S. export control or sanction laws.

Huawei is the largest smartphone manufacturer in China and a major Apple competitor in the country. Few Huawei products are available in the U.S., however, because of the aforementioned cybersecurity concerns.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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