Sprint and T-Mobile Merger Approval, Said to Be Near, Could Undercut Challenge by States


“The states would have to evaluate whether they believe in light of that divestiture their arguments about harm are still valid,” said Blair Levin, an analyst at New Street Research. “We are in uncharted territory.”

A representative for Ms. James did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Becerra’s office declined to comment. Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia and Wisconsin joined California and New York in filing the lawsuit.

The Trump administration has declared the development of 5G a matter of national security. The technology will provide much faster wireless speeds, aiding in the development of robotics, driverless cars and other emerging industries. The president has argued that if China leads in the development of 5G, the competitiveness of the United States economy will be hurt.

Makan Delrahim, whom Mr. Trump appointed as the Justice Department’s top antitrust regulator, has reviewed numerous deals in the media and telecommunications industries in the last couple of years. He sued to block a deal between AT&T and Time Warner, but lost the case in court. He quickly approved the purchase of 21st Century Fox by the Walt Disney Company.

Before Mr. Delrahim took office, his comments were largely in line with more free-market-oriented Republican views, and he was widely expected to be more lenient on mergers than predecessors in the Obama administration.

But as in the case with the AT&T-Time Warner deal, he has pushed for structural remedies, like forcing a company to sell assets before approving a merger. He is skeptical of so-called behavioral remedies, which restrict the new company’s behavior or operations.

“In telecommunications, as in other industries, we strongly favor structural remedies. If a structural remedy isn’t available, then, except in the rarest of circumstances, we will seek to block an illegal merger,” Mr. Delrahim said in a speech in November.



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