T-Mobile’s Braxton Carter and Mike Sievert spoke about the possibility of a merger with Sprint at a recent investors conference. While Sprint is currently at the bottom of the ranks among the top 4 wireless carriers in America, both T-Mobile bigwigs found plenty of positive things to talk about in regards to a potential merger. Most of that positive talk focused around Sprint’s massive store of 2.5GHz spectrum. They both said that T-Mobile would be optimally positioned to help Sprint leverage their 2.5GHz spectrum with the kind of speed, agility, and scale that they wouldn’t be able to manage on only their own wallet. Essentially, T-Mobile would want to use the spectrum in their own 5G densification efforts, and Braxton Carter made that interest fairly clear by calling Sprint a “huge prize” and their 2.5GHz spectrum a “treasure trove”. Carter asserted that talks with Sprint and SoftBank were a near certainty, but that nothing may come of them.
The two carriers had spoken in passing about a merger before, but this is one of only a handful of times that one of them took the time to actually talk over the benefits of a merger. Their two parent companies, however, have been just a bit more direct. Masayoshi Son, CEO of Sprint owner SoftBank, has spoken quite frankly about mergers between Sprint and T-Mobile, even going as far as to say that T-Mobile is a favorite among possible merger carriers for Sprint. Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, has also spoken highly of a merger with Sprint in the past, for much the same reasons that Carter and Sievert did today.
It’s no secret that T-Mobile is hungry for spectrum for their 5G buildout; they wound up being the top spender at the recent FCC 600MHz incentive auction. It’s also no secret that Sprint is in somewhat unfavorable financial straits. While they’re in no immediate danger of insolvency, they’re frantically selling off and leasing back their own network equipment as just one way to get some extra cash, and their current 5G buildout plan with their own 2.5GHz spectrum pegs completion of the planned buildout nowhere near 2020, when the 5G standard will be completely ready to roll. T-Mobile and Sprint working together, however, could very easily deploy Sprint’s massive 2.5GHz spectrum alongside T-Mobile’s new 600MHz spectrum at full scale, and very quickly.