FCC Pauses Clock for Reviewing T-Mobile, Sprint Deal

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The Federal Communications Commission paused its informal 180-day clock for reviewing

T-Mobile US
.


TMUS 0.53%

Inc.’s takeover of

Sprint
Corp.


S 0.50%

, saying it needs more time to consider information the wireless carriers have provided.

The agency, which started its formal review about 60 days ago, said it is taking more time to review a “significantly larger and more complex” engineering model that the companies had recently submitted and a business model that executives had referenced in a recent meeting with commission staff, according to a letter issued Tuesday by the FCC.

FCC officials sometimes stretch their self-imposed timeline to review particularly complex or high-profile transactions. T-Mobile’s plan to buy Sprint is both, featuring large foreign-ownership stakes, planned investments in new 5G network technology and a new definition of competition that executives have used to argue there are more than four competitors in the national wireless market.

The delay is hardly a major setback for the more than $26 billion merger effort. Company executives have said privately and publicly that the deal review would most likely drag into 2019.

In the letter addressed to representatives of T-Mobile and Sprint, the FCC said “additional time is necessary to allow for thorough staff and third-party review.”

On Sept. 5, the companies submitted a “substantially revised network engineering model,” the FCC said in the letter.

The companies, in a joint statement, acknowledged providing a large amount of data to the FCC. “We appreciate that the FCC is taking the time necessary to fully understand the merits of the T-Mobile and Sprint merger,” they said. “We are confident that the transaction is pro-competitive” and good for consumers, they added.

T-Mobile also recently said it intends to submit additional economic modeling in support of the applications, which will also require additional time for review, the FCC said.

The clock will remain stopped until the companies have completed the submissions and until the staff and third parties have time to review, the FCC said. The commission will decide at a later time whether to extend the deadline for reply comments.

Shares of T-Mobile were little changed at $65.92 in after-hours trading Tuesday, while Sprint was flat at $6.08. T-Mobile’s stock is up 4.6% in the last year, while Sprint has dropped more than 20%.

Write to Aisha Al-Muslim at aisha.al-muslim@wsj.com and Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com

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