June 28, 2013

FCC head pushes for vote on Sprint deal

Clearance from the Federal Communications Commission would finish government review of Sprint’s plans to join with SoftBank Corp. of Japan and Clearwire Corp., which is Sprint’s wireless network partner.

The head of the last U.S. agency reviewing SoftBank Corp.’s bid for control of Sprint Nextel Corp. recommended approval of the $21.6 billion deal.

Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn asked her two fellow commissioners to vote on the transaction that would give billionaire Masayoshi Son at SoftBank a position in the U.S. market, the agency said in an e-mailed statement.

The transaction would strengthen third-largest U.S. wireless carrier Sprint as a competitor to the country’s two biggest mobile carriers, Verizon Wireless and AT Inc.

Wireless operator SoftBank, based in Tokyo, told the FCC its control of Sprint, based in Overland Park, would bring more investments in the mobile network and innovative pricing.

The deal would continue a re-ordering in the growing mobile market, after the fourth- and fifth-largest U.S. carriers combined May 1 into T-Mobile US Inc. after that company bought MetroPCS Communications Inc.

Shareholders of Sprint approved the deal with SoftBank on June 25, ending a takeover contest with Dish Network Corp., the satellite television provider seeking to expand its service offerings.

Huawei Assurances

U.S. antitrust and security officials earlier cleared SoftBank’s bid. The companies gave assurances they would limit use of telecommunications gear made by Huawei Technologies Co., based in Shenzhen, China.

A congressional committee last year said Huawei’s connections to the Chinese army created the potential for electronic spying. Huawei has said its exclusion is “misguided” and doesn’t resolve vulnerabilities arising from common global equipment supply chains.

The FCC’s review of the SoftBank-Sprint deal determines whether the transfer of control of Sprint’s airwaves is in the public’s interest.

Clyburn’s request included Sprint’s proposal to buy the half of Clearwire Corp. it doesn’t already own, according to the agency’s statement today.

The FCC has no deadline to act.

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