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Lyca Files with FCC To Block Mint / T-Mobile Merger

LYCA NWIDALycamobile has filed with the FCC (link at bottom) to block the Ultra/Mint/Plum (Ka’ena) merger. 

The London-based MVNO has accused T-Mobile of a variety of anti-competitive practices, including withholding key technologies from its US subsidiary. 

As NWIDA reported LYCA has sued T-Mobile and rumors floated they were actively looking for a new carrier. Now, LYCA has filed a formal complaing with the FCC. 

“Lyca has struggled over the past several years to obtain basic functionalities from T-Mobile, such as eSIM and access to T-Mobile’s 5G standalone architecture, and to get T-Mobile to fairly observe the terms of its MVNO agreement,” Lycamobile wrote to the FCC. The MVNO counts 16 million subscribers worldwide, and 542,000 in the US.

In its filing, Lyca urged federal regulators to block T-Mobile’s proposed $1.35 billion purchase of rival MVNO Mint Mobile and Ultra as well as MVNE Plum. 

“T-Mobile already provides more favorable terms to Lyca’s competitors, and this situation will predictably deteriorate for independent MVNOs if T-Mobile is permitted to acquire … Mint,” Lycamobile wrote. “Lyca has serious concerns that this acquisition will only further incent T-Mobile to disadvantage Lyca so as to eliminate competition for its in-house MVNOs.”

T-Mobile has already filed a motion to dismiss (link at bottom) arguing that Lyca’s complaints were filed nine months too late – after the FCC’s comment deadline – and that they are not relevant. 

The war between Lyca and T-Mobile goes back to a lawsuit T-Mobile filed in 2022. T-Mobile claims in the lawsuit that it accidentally undercharged Lycamobile for more than a year of MVNO access to its network – and that Lycamobile should have caught it.

“Lycamobile relied on the false information from T-Mobile to lower its prices to customers and to expand its operations to grow its customers. Now Lycamobile has had to reduce its customer promotions, change its customer plans and scale back its growth plans, which has substantially injured Lycamobile,” the company wrote.

“This lawsuit is a smokescreen for T-Mobile’s desire to hamper Lycamobile’s ability to compete with T-Mobile by raising the fees Lycamobile must pay, which will lead to higher consumer prices, and failing that, to remove Lycamobile from the market, depriving underserved consumers of a lower cost alternative,” the company wrote.

In its response Lyca wrote that T-Mobile broadly is attempting to squelch competition in the MVNO sector in general – the opposite of what T-Mobile promised to do as it worked to convince regulators to approve its $26 billion acquisition of Sprint.

“Since the merger, T-Mobile has acted anti-competitively in ways that harm consumers,” Lycamobile wrote. “T-Mobile’s anti-competitive actions with respect to Lycamobile will lead to higher costs for customers.”

“Lyca is concerned that T-Mobile has been advantaging Ultra and Mint because of their intended acquisition of the companies while systematically disadvantaging Lyca, a close independent competitor,” Lycamobile wrote. “Lyca believes that this anti-competitive behavior will only worsen if T-Mobile is permitted to bring these two additional MVNOs in-house, harming both Lyca and the vulnerable populations Lyca serves.”

T-Mobile authorities were optimistic about finalizing their merger in the first quarter of 2024, but it didn’t materialize. This marks the second postponement as the FCC is still assessing the proposed deal.

The impact of Lycamobile’s recent grievances on the regulators’ decision to potentially halt the transaction remains uncertain.

In the meantime, the legal dispute between T-Mobile and Lycamobile is set to be tried in court in April 2025.

Link to FCC Filing

Link to T-Mobile Response

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