Japanese operator Softbank Corp’s USD21.6 billion bid for Sprint Nextel is said to have received the approval of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Although the watchdog has yet to make a formal announcement on the matter, Bloomberg reports that two of the FCC’s three commissioners have already approved the transaction. This endorsement is also thought to include a tentative green light to Sprint’s parallel offer to purchase the roughly 50% of Clearwire that it does not already own. If the report is accurate, it means that Softbank has overcome the last major hurdle to the transaction, and the company will soon be allowed to seize 78% ownership of Sprint.
Following the conclusion of the deal Softbank intends to abandon the ‘Nextel’ component of the company’s name, which is a throwback to Sprint’s ill-fated 2005 takeover of iDEN operator Nextel. Coincidentally, the company’s iDEN network was switched off on Sunday night, paving the way for Sprint to reuse the frequencies for newer, more profitable, data services over its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. As at 31 March 2013 Sprint still had 1.3 million customers using the Nextel network, but after a rigorous migration campaign network chief Bob Azzi said that remaining traffic on Sunday was ‘very, very small’.