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A passenger boards a bus featuring 5G network service in March in Nanning, China. Photo: Yu Xiangquan/VCG via Getty Images

Sprint CEO Michel Combes and and T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray have a message for Washington: If you want to beat China in the 5G race, you'd better approve our merger.

Why it matters: The $26 billion deal that would combine the 3rd and 4th largest U.S. wireless carriers has been waiting on federal approval for almost a year now.

  • The companies shrewdly seized on all the fretting over China's threat to make the following case to telecom regulators: Sure, you'll lose one wireless competitor in the U.S., but you'll gain a stronger global competitor that can help the nation stay ahead of its 5g nemesis.
  • "The race has barely begun. There's going to be an intense phase of running this race and investment in these networks. You've heard about the resources needed to do that. We're up against formidable competition. The Chinese machine has incredible momentum," Ray told a room full of wireless lobbyists (as well as a few FCC staffers).

Sprint has a boatload of mid-band spectrum that complements T-Mobile's low-band and millimeter wave spectrum. Combining financial resources would allow the companies to build faster, Ray said. "It's not '1+1=2,'" he said. "It's 1+1=4."

  • On Thursday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere pledged to add at least 11,000 more jobs by 2024.
  • Also on Thursday, the FCC restarted the merger review shot clock, which now runs out in early June. (Be smart: The shot clock is just a goal, not a binding deadline.)
  • NEC Director Larry Kudlow also reiterated the Trump administration's support for a market-based approach to deploying 5G.

Reality check: Verizon and AT&T are moving full-speed ahead on their own 5G deployments, and Verizon flipped the switch on commercial 5G service in Minneapolis and Chicago this week.

  • "We have all we need to compete against China," Verizon President Ronan Dunne told Axios when asked about his competitors' pitch. "That's not to say we should be complacent, but I don't see any evidence to say we are hamstrung in our ambitions to lead not just in the U.S. but to lead the world."

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
51 mins ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”