After years of back-and-forth boardroom negotiations, handshakes with government officials, a failure along the way, and many doses of hard bargaining, Sprint and T-Mobile are on track to merge and form a wireless carrier with a total of 137 million subscribers. The Department of Justice recently greenlit the deal, all we're waiting for now is the FCC vote. Today, the countdown has begun as commission chairman Ajit Pai announced his support for the combination.

In a release, Pai is encouraging the FCC's four other commissioners to vote for an order which would approve the merger, saying that the so-called New T-Mobile would be in the public interest by promoting competition in the industry and spreading 5G across rural areas in quick fashion. Mitigating factors, such as T-Mobile's sidecar deal with Dish to divest Boost Mobile and some of its spectrum licenses, were deemed to be satisfactory.

The order would require the company to bring 5G to 99% of the U.S. population within 6 years — a task that will be made slightly easier with the broadland coverage possible by deploying 5G on T-Mobile's 600MHz spectrum. The FCC will delegate enforcement to its Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

The order, still in the drafting stages, is expected to be approved by the commission by a 3-2 margin on political lines. The FCC will conduct its next open meeting on September 26.

TMUS shares are down 1% as of midday while S shares have remained flat.