Altice USA Files in Opposition to T-Mobile-Sprint Merger

Cable operator concerned deal could hamper its wireless expansion plans
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Add Altice USA to the growing list of communications companies coming out against the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger, claiming in its petition filed with the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday that the deal could makes its ongoing wireless agreement with Sprint difficult.

Dish Network filed a similar petition against the merger with the FCC on Monday.

Altice USA signed a Mobile Virtual Network Operator agreement with Sprint in 2017 to provide wireless services to its customers in the New York area and the Midwest.  Altice expects to launch the wireless service early next year.

But in its petition with the FCC, Altice USA said a Sprint merger with T-Mobile could have an adverse effect on its own wireless deal with Sprint.

Related: Former Altice Exec Resurfaces at Sprint 

In its FCC filing, Altice sad it was confident in its ability to offer its wireless service in 2019, a product it said had strategic importance for both companies.

But the operator said it “has concerns about the opportunity to expand its wireless service nationwide and over the long term, because T-Mobile and the New T-Mobile have made no tangible commitments regarding meaningful support for current MVNO partners, including offering such partners the full nationwide network that the New T-Mobile will enjoy. The concerns of Altice are magnified in view of T-Mobile’s hostile statements against MVNOs, including cable operators entering the wireless market.”

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Related: Altice USA Hires Jean Charles Nicolas to Lead Mobile Unit 

While Altice said its Sprint MVNO will continue after Sprint is acquired, there are no guarantees that T-Mobile will support the MVNO market once the merger is complete, especially its commitment to supporting further expansion in the wireless arena. That commitment is critical to the survival of any MVNO service, Altice USA said in the filing.

“Altice’s agreement with Sprint clearly accounts for the continuation of the relationship if Sprint is acquired,” Altice USA said in the filing. “However, given the lack of firm commitments by [T-Mobile] to support the MVNO market if the merger is consummated, Altice is concerned about [T-Mobile’s] willingness to support Altice’s further expansion in the wireless market.

“ ...it clearly is not lost on Applicants that MVNOs such as Tracfone, Altice, Charter, and Comcast need nationwide, long-term, wholesale arrangements in order to provide nationwide wireless service and, without these arrangements, MVNOs cannot compete,” Altice USA continued. “However, without actual commitments from the New T-Mobile to provide its MVNO partners with durable, long-term, nationwide wholesale terms, the competitive impact of these MVNO partners will not exist and cannot be considered by the Commission.”

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Altice USA fears that instead of supporting its MVNO deals, the New T-Mobile will be incentivized to “expand its own market power y refusing to offer reasonable, nationwide, wholesale wireless terms to its MVNO partners. T-Mobile’s own comments to date, and its refusals to make commitments to the MVNO market, already have telegraphed this result.”

To remedy that situation, Altice USA proposed that as a condition to approval the New T-Mobile must agree to honor and implement existing MVNO agreements. Other conditions proposed by the cable operator inclide: agreeing to offer MVNO partners for the full term of their existing agreement or 10 years (whichever is later) the best wholesale terms and conditions; divesting spectrum that exceeds the spectrum screen, and associated network infrastructure, in order to make those assets available to MVNOs, and smaller wireless players that need spectrum; and filing detailed quarterly reports with the Commission describing New T-Mobile’s status in implementing the conditions for 10 years after the deal is complete. 

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