The Federal Communications Commission has approved SoftBank's plan to buy U.S. cell service provider Sprint Nextel, according to insider sources. The approval means SoftBank can move forward with its US$21.6 billion deal, and also gives Sprint the greenlight to complete its purchase of the remaining part of Clearwire that it currently doesn't own.
Sources told Bloomberg that the Softbank deal passed with two out of three votes.
Softbank confrimed its plans to buy 70 percent of Sprint last October in a deal that will help the carrier expand its LTE coverage and improve its network infrastructure, and to better compete with Verizon and AT&T and close its third-place gap.
At the time, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said, "This transaction provides an excellent opportunity for SoftBank to leverage its expertise in smartphones and next-generation high speed networks, including LTE, to drive the mobile internet revolution in one of the world's largest markets."
As part of the deal, Sprint is forming a new company called New Sprint where Softbank will invest an additional $17 billion. New Sprint will operate as a publicly traded subsidy of Sprint.
The deal will likely help Sprint hold its third place position in the U.S. mobile phone market, leaving the recently merged T-Mobile and MetroPCS in fourth place.
The FCC hasn't officially announced its approval, so as of now none of the companies involved are commenting.