The House Committee on Energy and Commerce and House Judiciary Committee will hold a joint hearing regarding the proposed merger between wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile on February 13, according to an official statement recently released by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. A participants list for the hearing has not been finalized but will include both T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure.
The concerns of officials were summarized in a statement made by Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Chairman David N. Cicilline alongside the announcement. Those primarily center around the fact that the merger would bring together two of the nation's largest carriers but Mr. Cicilline also points out that the pair service a larger number of low-income customers than competing operators.
The joint committee intends to provide oversight for other key government organizations, many of which have expressed approval of the merger, from in the interest of best-serving consumers. In particular, the focus will be placed on jobs and how the merger would affect consumer costs, in addition to the likely impact on both innovation and overall competition.
Other participants that have already announced participation as part of the joint committee include Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Mike Doyle.
The stalemate of a merger
Whether or not the $26.5 billion merger effort should move forward ranges wildly depending on exactly who is asked but there has been staunch opposition to it since the initial announcement back in 2017. Amid the more convincing arguments against the two companies joining forces is the claim that Sprint's ties to Huawei would compromise the newly formed company and possibly national security.q
Questions have also been raised regarding whether either company truly needs the other to compete in the emerging 5G smartphone operator market. Both Sprint and T-Mobile have repeatedly claimed that they will be able to roll out 5G on their own. Sprint's holdings of vital 5G spectrum licenses and its ability to roll out the new service with minimal changes to existing infrastructure place it in a favorable position. T-Mobile doesn't have that luxury but has made similar promises.
The contention from the two providers stems from the timeframe surrounding a 5G rollout without the merger. By combining forces Sprint and T-Mobile each believe they stand a far better chance of competing with AT&T and Verizon on even footing, while the merger would likely have plenty of advantages in other areas too. Without the merger, the wireless companies don't think they will be able to compete on the same level.
The two companies have also argued that the merger will ultimately result in increases in the total employees represented by a combined workforce and new hires from the build-out. The joint effort would result in more hires than layoffs and better service for customers, without any major cost hikes, the duo claims.
In pursuit of clarity
The joint committee hearing will look to extend arguments surrounding the proposed merger's impact further, hoping to get to the bottom of the ordeal from the unbiased perspective of consumers. That's an approach has largely remained the domain of analysts and various organizations that either support or decry the merger outright.
This new hearing should be able to cover new ground and bring some clarification to the matter regarding exactly how consumers and workers will be affected by the merger. The committee may also make some recommendations or foster discussion regarding reasonable limitations for the companies if the merger does move to completion.