This week, rumors started heating up again that Dish and T-Mobile were in talks to merge. This isn’t the first time Dish has been linked to buying T-Mobile. Actually it’s about the third time. The first was back in 2011 when AT&T was looking to buy the fourth largest carrier. And then again when Sprint was looking to buy them as well. Dish has been acquiring spectrum for the last few years and have built up a pretty strong spectrum portfolio. They’ve been looking to get into wireless for years now, and it looks like T-Mobile might be the perfect way for Dish to do so.
But what about the competition? If Dish and T-Mobile merge, they would become a much stronger competitor to AT&T and Verizon. As the combined company would basically double their spectrum. Currently, you have AT&T and Verizon with over 115 million customers each, and then there’s Sprint and AT&T with around 58 million customers each. If Dish merged with T-Mobile, it would only be a matter of time before T-Mobile reached AT&T and Verizon numbers, while Sprint would be stuck around the 58 million number.
“If Dish buys T-Mobile they’ll become a lot stronger, their spectrum portfolio will double and they will have a real competitive edge against the rest of the industry,” Spencer Kurn, New Street Research analyst stated.
So what’s next for Sprint? Well Sprint is in a lot of debt. That’s not really Marcelo Claure’s fault, as he just became CEO of the company about a year ago. It’s not even really Dan Hesse’s fault, but the execs ahead of them. There were plenty of wrong choices made at Sprint, including one of the messiest mergers of all time with Nextel. Sprint and Nextel merged in 2005. In 2014, they were finally able to use the 800MHz spectrum that came with the Nextel merger. That was 9 years after the merger. Definitely not what Sprint had in mind when they forked over all that cash for Nextel. If Sprint can’t find a way to bid for T-Mobile again, many analysts are expecting them to start selling some of their spectrum. Sprint currently has the most spectrum of any of the US Carriers. And many are interested in their 2.5GHz spectrum, as it holds the most bandwidth.
What’s good for T-Mobile, won’t be good for Sprint. And that’s where Masayoshi Son’s checkbook comes into play. As owner of SoftBank, he definitely has the cash, but is he willing to spend it on Sprint’s network and the company?