A group of US state attorney generals vowed to continue exploring options to prevent a merger of T-Mobile US with Sprint, after the operators beat their legal challenge to the proposed $26 billion deal.

A coalition of 14 state attorney generals argued in court the deal would harm competition and raise prices for consumers. However, a judge today (11 February) ruled the transaction “is not reasonably likely to substantially lessen competition”.

Indeed, he stated the deal would “allow the merged company to continue T-Mobile’s undeniably successful business strategy for the foreseeable future”.

The judge also noted he was not convinced “Sprint possesses the financial and operational means to survive in the near term as a national wireless carrier” without the merger.

T-Mobile COO and CEO-elect Mike Sievert in a statement hailed the decision as a “big win”. The deal could be closed as early as 1 April, he said adding the companies were now “laser-focused on finishing the few open items that remain, but our eye is on the prize”.

The operators previously secured approvals from the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice.

However, New York Attorney General Letitia James, who helped lead the state campaign against the deal, indicated the attorney generals could still seek ways to stymie the deal, with an appeal of the court ruling one possibility.

James declared the ruling “a loss for every American”, insisting “there is no doubt that reducing the mobile market from four to three will be bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation”.

In addition to a potential reaction from attorney generals, T-Mobile and Sprint must still secure approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, the last of 19 state-level regulators not to have a say on the merger.