WASHINGTON, July 26 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday that it has approved the 26-billion-U.S.-dollar merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, the third and fourth largest wireless carriers in the country.

In a statement, the DOJ said it and the attorney's general for five states reached a settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint regarding their proposed merger.

The settlement will also facilitate the deployment of multiple high-quality 5G networks, the DOJ said.

Supporters of the merger believe that it will improve the quality of wireless service, while critics argue that it would reduce competition in the industry and lead to higher prices for consumers.

The DOJ's antitrust division, along with the offices of five state attorneys general, which represent Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on the same day in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed transaction.

Meanwhile, the DOJ and the five states filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve their competitive concerns, the statement said.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, T-Mobile and Sprint must divest Sprint's prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and other prepaid phone businesses, to Dish Network Corp., a Colorado-based satellite television provider. The proposed settlement also provides for the divestiture of certain spectrum assets to Dish.

Additionally, T-Mobile and Sprint must make available to Dish at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. And Dish will also be able to access T-Mobile's network for seven years.

In May, officials of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission expressed their support for the merger, after the companies pledged to prioritize providing services for rural Americans and advancing 5G network deployment.