FCC task force says it needs more time to review new modeling information

The Federal Communications Commission has paused the 180-day shot clock for its review of the proposed merger of T-Mobile US and Sprint, citing new information still coming in T-Mobile US on network engineering, a financial basis for new network build-out and economic modeling.

According to a letter from David Lawrence, head of the FCC’s T-Mobile/Sprint Transaction Task Force, and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Donald Stockdale, there were three recent developments that led to the pause:

-On Sept. 5th, T-Mobile US submitted a “substantially revised network engineering model,” the FCC said. Although a network engineering model had already been submitted to back up network-related claims, the FCC said, the initial model was expanded and is “significantly larger and more complex than the engineering submissions already in the record. It appears to incorporate new logic, methodologies, facts, and assumptions on a subject central to the [merger application]— the transaction’s claimed network benefits.” The FCC needs more time to review it.

In a letter from T-Mobile US, the carrier’s attorney explained that the initial engineering model submitted “calculates offered traffic and throughput as a function of spectrum assets, sites, and spectral efficiency” and was submitted in support of the carriers’ public interest statement. Since then, the carriers “have expanded the model to incorporate functionality that measures congestion as a function of network traffic, projects incremental builds necessary to satisfy the parties’ ordinary-course planning criteria, and measures network performance from a user experience perspective, accounting for network load.”

-The FCC did not have access to a business model that “apparently provides the financial basis for the projected new network buildout” until Sept. 5th, and that requires additional review as well.

-T-Mobile US has told the FCC that it plans to submit additional economic modeling that responds to economic analyses that have been submitted urging the FCC to deny the merger, and more time will be needed to study that analysis.

“The Commission has a strong interest in ensuring a full and complete record upon which to base its decision in this proceeding,” Lawrence and Stockdale wrote. “Considering the complexity and potential importance of these newly-provided and expected models, it is appropriate to top the informal 180-day clock to allow time for their review.”

The shot clock will remain stopped, the letter said, until T-Mobile US and Sprint have completed submitting their modeling submissions and a “reasonable period of time has passed for staff and third-party review.” The letter also added that the FCC will decide whether to extend the deadline for reply comments.

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