T-Mobile and Sprint have been working for over a year to gain approval for their $26 billion merger, and today the US Justice Department has given the green light for the deal. The news comes as the two carriers have made an agreement for Dish to buy both Boost and Virgin Mobile and lease wireless spectrum to become a fourth major US cellular provider.

T-Mobile and Sprint received verbal approval from the FCC in May. The Department of Justice had some requirements before giving its approval, namely, creating a new cellular competitor in the wake of the third and fourth-largest carriers merging.

T-Mobile and Sprint had been talking with Dish recently about it purchasing Boost and Virgin Mobile as well as leasing cellular spectrum to get the company up and running as a carrier. Earlier this week, reports suggested that a deal had been struck with Dish, bringing T-Mobile and Sprint closer to its goal.

Today, the DOJ has approved the T-Mobile/Sprint deal worth $26 billion (via the Verge). The DOJ’s assistant attorney general of the agency’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, commented on the merger:

“With this merger and accompanying divestiture, we are expanding output significantly by ensuring that large amount[s] of currently unused or underused spectrum are made available to American consumers in the form of high-quality 5G networks,” Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s antitrust division, said.

As for details about the deal with Dish, the company will have access to 20,000 cell sites provided by T-Mobile and Sprint, retail locations, and access to wireless spectrum for seven years as it builds up its own network.

This will position Dish as the replacement fourth major US carrier that will be lost once T-Mobile and Sprint merge. The two companies will be required to provide at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations to Dish, and the satellite TV provider will also get unfettered access to T-Mobile’s network for seven years as it works to build out a mobile network of its own using the newly acquired assets and spectrum that Dish has held on to for years. Dish has publicly remained silent on its plans throughout this entire process, but that is likely to change starting today.

While the T-Mobile and Sprint merger seems like a done deal, the carriers’ last hurdle will be the multi-state lawsuit that state attorneys general filed last month to block the merger.

Update: Dish has shared a press release detailing its move to become a major US cellular carrier. Among the news, the company detailed the plan to cover 70% of Americans with 5G service from its own independent network by June 2023. The deal with T-Mobile and Sprint also will see Dish:

  • Acquire Sprint’s prepaid businesses and customers, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and the Sprint-branded prepaid service.
  • Acquire 14 MHz of Sprint’s nationwide 800 MHz spectrum.
  • Access the New T-Mobile network for seven years, including the ability to serve DISH customers seamlessly between T-Mobile’s nationwide network and DISH’s new independent 5G broadband network.
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