US regulators are approving T-Mobile's $26.5 billion takeover of rival Sprint, despite fears of higher prices and job cuts. Friday's approval by the Justice Department and five state attorneys general comes after Sprint and T-Mobile agreed to conditions that would set up satellite-TV provider Dish as a fourth wireless company, so the number of major US providers remains at four, per the AP. Sprint and T-Mobile combined would now approach the size of Verizon and AT&T. The companies have argued that bulking up will mean a better next-generation "5G" wireless network than they could make on their own. Dish, meanwhile, is buying prepaid cellphone brands such as Boost and Virgin Mobile and some spectrum, or airwaves for wireless service, from the two companies. It will also be able to rent T-Mobile's network for seven years while it builds its own.
DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim says the settlement sets up Dish "as a disruptive force in wireless." The two companies tried to combine during the Obama administration but regulators rebuffed them. They resumed talks on combining once President Trump took office. The companies appealed to Trump's desire for the US to "win" a global 5G race with China as this faster, more reliable wireless is rolled out and applications are built for it. The GOP-controlled FCC agreed in May to back the deal. But public-interest advocates complained the FCC conditions didn't address the problems of the merger—higher prices, less wireless competition—and would be difficult for regulators to enforce. Attorneys general from 13 states and DC then filed a lawsuit to block the deal. They may not be satisfied with the settlement and choose to press ahead. A judge must also approve the DOJ's settlement. (Read more T-Mobile stories.)