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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Department of Justice has approved T-Mobile's deal to acquire Sprint, requiring the companies to divest some assets that Dish Networks can use to build a new fourth national U.S. wireless network.

Why it matters: T-Mobile and Sprint have argued that a combination of their resources will help them compete with market leaders Verizon and AT&T. Opponents of the deal argued that it will reduce competition.

The Justice Department and five states reached the settlement with Sprint and T-Mobile, which calls on the companies to:

  • Sell Sprint's prepaid brands (Boost, Virgin and Sprint Prepaid) to Dish Network.
  • Make available at least 20,000 cell sites to Dish
  • Divest some spectrum in the 800MHz range to Dish
  • Provide Dish with "robust access" to the T-Mobile network for at least 7 years while Dish builds out its 5G network
  • engage in "good faith" negotiations about leasing some of Dish's existing 600MHz spectrum

Yes, but: Dish already has been sitting on a bunch of spectrum that it has yet to use and many wireless industry experts doubt its ability to emerge as a serious fourth player in the market.

What they're saying:

  • Assistant Attorney General Makin Delrahim said that the merger "would be anti-competitive” if not for the remedies the agency includes in its settlement.
  • Former FCC official Gigi Sohn: "The state AGs who sued to block the merger shouldn’t be fooled by this weak attempt to maintain competition in the mobile wireless market.... A new mobile wireless entrant that starts with zero postpaid subscribers and that must rely on its much bigger rival, the new T-Mobile, just to operate is not a competitor. It's a mobile Frankenstein."
  • T-Mobile CEO John Legere noted in a statement that the Dish deal won't change "previously announced target synergies, profitability and long-term cash generation" projections.
  • Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said the deal will help fulfill two decades of work and more than $21 billion in spectrum investments. Dish also notes in a press release that the deal requires it to "use its spectrum to deploy a nationwide 5G broadband network covering at least 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 14, 2023" or else "make voluntary contributions to the U.S. Treasury of up to $2.2 billion.”

What's next: A court will have to approve the deal, and 10 other states have separately sued to block it. Those states have asked the court for more time in the event of a DoJ settlement that changed the terms of the deal, as is now the case.

  • The FCC also needs to give the agreement formal approval, but Chairman Ajit Pai had signaled his support even before the Dish deal and says he will now circulate a draft order approving the transaction.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.