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Washington antitrust authorities at the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commisssion on Wednesday granted unconditional approval to Sprint's $70bn takeover of Nextel, clearing the way for the creation of the third largest wireless US carrier.

The announcement was made as both the DoJ and FCC continue to investigate two other mega-telecoms mergers that could face tougher regulatory hurdles - the mergers between SBC and AT&T and Verizon and MCI.

The DoJ said an investigation of the Sprint transaction, which was announced at the end of 2004, found that the deal did not give the companies market power in areas in which they already competed and that consumers would continue to have a wide range of choices following the combination of the companies.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin said he was “pleased” with the outcome of the review. Michael Copps, a Democratic commissioner at the FCC, also approved the deal, but cautioned that the FCC would have to take a “hard look” at whether the commission had gone as far as it could go in approving wireless deals.

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