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FCC: Sprint buyout decision likely on track for late May

It looks like smooth sailing for Japanese carrier Softbank's purchase of Sprint and Clearwire assets, at least where the FCC is concerned.

Sprint's buyout by Japanese carrier Softbank should be right on track for a late May conclusion, Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, hinted today.

Specifically, the FCC head said that his organization's review is on schedule with the typical 180-day review period, after which the FCC hands down a yay or nay decision. In this case, the 180-day count ends on May 29.

Just because the process is going well, doesn't mean it's a done deal. Even with full FCC approval, the Justice Department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security could still stall the international buyout proposal pending their own reviews.

It's also possible that the FCC could add its own stipulations for the portion of the deal involving Sprint's acquisition of broadband services provider Clearwire, including classifying and possibly divesting of spectrum in certain areas. Sprint is Clearwire's largest single shareholder, and a deal with Softbank would give Sprint the bargaining chips it needs to take complete control.

Softbank and Sprint first announced the $20.1 billion merger in mid-October 2012. If successful, Softbank's all-cash investment is expected to strengthen Sprint's struggling network.

Article updated: March 21, 2013. The original article incorrectly stated that Softbank's deal with Sprint is contingent upon Sprint's acquisition of Clearwire.