The U.S. Justice Department is set to give approval to Verizon Wireless’s purchase of airwaves from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) and other cable companies today in exchange for limits on agreements to sell each other’s services, four people with knowledge of the situation said.
Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, has been seeking clearance from the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission for the $3.6 billion deal, which will supply the phone company with spectrum that the cable providers aren’t using. The people asked not to be named because the decision hasn’t been made public.
Verizon and Comcast have agreed in principle with U.S. antitrust officials to limit joint ventures as a condition for the deal’s approval, people familiar with the negotiations said yesterday.
In a filing yesterday, Verizon told the FCC it will use the airwaves to serve 70 percent of the population covered by the frequencies within seven years. It also vowed to reach agreements to let other wireless companies use its airwaves in areas where it’s acquiring frequencies from the cable companies.
Verizon, based in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, is adding airwaves to relieve a traffic crunch on its network caused by customers using smartphones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone to watch video and browse the Web. Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC), second to Comcast in U.S. cable customers, also is selling airwaves in the deal.
Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours. Brenda Raney, a spokeswoman for Verizon, declined to comment, as did Charlie Douglas at Philadelphia- based Comcast, and Justin Venech at Time Warner Cable. Neil Grace, a spokesman for the FCC, also declined to comment.
Critics have said the agreement will replace competition with cooperation, bringing higher prices and less choice for consumers. The FCC set an Aug. 21 target date for finishing its review.
Verizon Wireless is co-owned by Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc.