NEW YORK: A federal judge has cleared the way for AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, making it likely that other companies will rush to consolidate as well.

Tuesday’s ruling signaled that federal regulators will have a hard time stopping companies from getting bigger by gobbling up rivals and the content they own. Even if a company doesn’t need to get bigger right away, it might need to do so to prevent a competitor from doing so.

Expect Comcast to make a bid for Fox’s entertainment business as early as Wednesday.

Disney has made a $52.4 billion all-stock offer for the bulk of Twenty-First Century Fox, but Comcast has said it is preparing an all-cash offer that is superior to Disney’s. It will likely make an offer soon, now that the judge has ruled on AT&T.

Fox previously rejected a bid from an unnamed suitor, widely believed to be Comcast, because of potential regulatory hurdles.

In April, Sprint and T-Mobile announced a $26.5 billion combination. The deal would combine the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless companies and bulk them up to a similar size to Verizon and AT&T, the industry giants.

The worry is that with just three major carriers, there would be less incentive to keep innovating on prices and service. T-Mobile and Sprint might even raise prices now that they don’t have to try to poach customers off each other.