Dish May Use A T-Mobile-Sprint Merger To Go Wireless: Expert

September 21, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Dish Network would be able to become a wireless carrier on the back of a potential merger of T-Mobile and Sprint which is now said to be closer than ever, Barclays Capital Head of U.S. Media, Cable and Satellite Equity Research said earlier this week. In his latest note to investors, Kannan Venkateshwar speculated about the possibility of Dish leveraging its current position in the industry by filing an antitrust lawsuit against a consolidation of the third and fourth largest mobile service providers in the United States, claiming that their tie-up could inhibit its own ambitions in the segment by providing it with less choice in regards to potential partners and thus being anti-competitive in nature. While such a scenario is still unlikely, its very possibility may be used by Dish for obtaining certain concessions from T-Mobile and Sprint with the ultimate goal of ensuring a relatively painless entrance into the wireless market, Mr. Venkateshwar said.

As the Meridian, Colorado-based cable company has no wireless network of its own, its only realistic entry point into the wireless segment would be a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement with a carrier who owns the necessary infrastructure, and an entity formed by T-Mobile and Sprint could be an ideal partner for the firm if it manages to use the current state of affairs to negotiate a beneficial MVNO deal. Additionally, Sprint’s excess spectrum could simply be directly licensed to interested parties including Dish if the two were to look to quickly address anti-competitive issues related to their consolidation and facilitate the merger proceedings, Mr. Venkateshwar believes, noting how Dish already owns a sizeable spectrum portfolio which it could use to run its own mobile network. The cable service provider has been exploring the possibility of becoming a wireless company for many years now, with its latest efforts on that front having emerged earlier this summer when the company was said to be negotiating with Amazon over a wireless partnership. While no concrete moves on that front have been made by Dish since then, the firm will likely have to act in the near future if it’s still adamant to pursue its wireless ambitions while major players in the industry start absorbing one another.

All of those scenarios remain highly theoretical, with the merger itself still being at least months away from being finalized, according to recent reports. Even if Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank were to reach an agreement over a tie-up, such a deal would still be subject to regulatory approvals which seem more likely under the Trump administration which advocates a more lax approach to M&A regulation than the Obama-led government did but still isn’t guaranteed to approve a merger without asking for any concessions, or at all.