CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State regulators have approved AT&T's plan to purchase T-Mobile, a move that AT&T representatives say will let the company eventually bring high-speed "fourth-generation" wireless coverage to most West Virginians.
In an order issued Friday, the Public Service Commission ruled that the deal would not harm wireless competition in the state because T-Mobile has only 0.26 percent of the West Virginia market.
AT&T had sought PSC approval in April. The company says the deal will let it bring 4G access to 95 percent of West Virginians within the next four to six years.
Federal regulators still must approve the $39 billion national purchase, but an AT&T executive said the PSC ruling is a good sign for his company.
"We're going to be able to bring 4G . . . to 750,000 more residents of West Virginia than we would otherwise," said Mike Schweder, president of AT&T's Mid-Atlantic region.
He said the company would be able to "provide everyone in West Virginia the same kind of service that we do in major cities across the country."
In West Virginia and other states, AT&T wants to buy frequencies T-Mobile uses to transmit wireless communications and data. West Virginia is the third state to sign off on the merger, after Arizona and Louisiana. Regulators in Hawaii and California are reviewing the plan.
In March, AT&T announced its plan to buy T-Mobile from the German company Deutsche Telekom.
Schweder said the company hopes to get federal approval by the end of the year, but the timeline is "open-ended."
According to PSC filings, T-Mobile "has a limited West Virginia presence" with a total of three owned cellular towers and equipment on 27 others, according to PSC filings. The company has no West Virginia employees and has 2,300 customers in the state.