By Arshad Mohammed and Yuki Noguchi
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON -- The merger of Sprint and Nextel Communications won approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department yesterday, clearing the way for a combined company with more than 35 million mobile-phone subscribers.
The companies said they expect the $35 billion merger to close within two weeks and joint operations to begin within two months, meaning consumers may see joint advertising on television and new signs in stores by October.
The combined Sprint Nextel will be the nation's third-largest mobile company and will have more ammunition to compete against its much bigger rivals, Cingular Wireless and Verizon Wireless, and to forge potentially lucrative partnerships with cable companies.
The company will continue to market to Sprint's customer base and to Nextel's loyal business clients, who are devoted to its "push to talk" walkie-talkie-like feature.
For now, the companies will still operate two different network technologies, so that customers will not have to switch their phones. They hope to develop a new version of Nextel's push-to-talk service that will operate over Sprint's network, allowing current Nextel customers to use the feature with Sprint customers.