DOJ skeptical of Sprint, T-Mobile merger

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A rumored deal to combine Sprint and T-Mobile will get “a very hard look” from the Justice Department’s antitrust division, according to the division’s head.

William Baer told The New York Times in an interview that consumers have enjoyed “much more favorable competitive conditions” since the department blocked a proposed merger in 2011 between AT&T and T-Mobile. One of the department’s reasons for blocking the merger three years ago was to preserve a marketplace with four major wireless service providers.  

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“It’s going to be hard for someone to make a persuasive case that reducing four firms to three is actually going to improve competition for the benefit of American consumers,” he told The Times.  

Along with Sprint and T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T make up the four largest players in the U.S wireless industry. Verizon and AT&T control most of the market.

Advocates have said that a possible Sprint-T-Mobile deal would help them better compete with the two giants. Public interest groups, on the other hand, have been wary of any arrangement that would further consolidate the market.

Top Sprint officials have reportedly met with Justice Department officials in recent days to discuss an acquisition of T-Mobile.

On Thursday evening, Baer will deliver a speech at the annual meeting of the New York State Bar Association’s antitrust law section.