Dish is in talks with the Justice Department and T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, about selling some spectrum to get the merger with Sprint finalized. And according to those familiar with the situation, Deutsche Telekom is more in favor of Dish being the buyer, as opposed to a larger competitor like Amazon.
While Dish isn't really a "small" company, it is much smaller than Amazon. And if T-Mobile needs to sell some spectrum plus Boost Mobile to another company to create a fourth US carrier, Deutsche Telekom is going to rather that be Dish. This is because Amazon would throw a lot of money behind that network, after it acquires the spectrum and those customers. That's going to make this merger with Sprint almost useless for Deutsche Telekom.
Obviously, Dish can still be a pretty big competitor for T-Mobile, seeing as it has already spent more than $20 billion on acquiring spectrum in the past decade. Stockpiling a pretty large amount of spectrum that it still needs to build out. But the new T-Mobile could keep Dish in the fourth place position for quite some time – as it still needs to build out that network.
This makes Dish a much more viable buyer for Deutsche Telekom than Amazon.
However, Dish's co-founder, Charlie Ergen, likes to take his time with deals. Ergen likes to wait it out and get the lowest price possible. Where Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile, Sprint and Softbank are all looking to get this merger approved, they don't have time to wait for Ergen to get ready and make this deal.
The good thing, though, talks between Dish, Deutsche Telekom and the Justice Department are on-going and will continue next week. That means that they are making at least some headway.
The Justice Department has been reviewing the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint for some time now. And one of the big things that the DOJ wants, is for T-Mobile to create a fourth carrier. So that the US wouldn't be losing a carrier, but instead combining to make a third viable carrier and then a fourth smaller carrier. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense on paper, but regulators are more interested in keeping competition going strong in the space. As there would be nothing that could keep T-Mobile from raising prices once this merger is done.
T-Mobile and Sprint are looking to create that fourth US carrier by selling Boost Mobile – something it already agreed to do to get the FCC's approval – and by selling some of Sprint's spectrum. Sprint has a ton of spectrum already, and that 2.5GHz spectrum is looking real juicy for 5G. If Sprint does put that spectrum up for sale, it'll likely get a ton of potential buyers interested. Dish is reportedly looking at a bid of around $6 billion for spectrum and Boost Mobile. The prepaid carrier was recently thought to sell for around $4 billion, so that means that Sprint isn't selling a ton of spectrum.
We could see a deal happen next week, though it is unlikely. But if talks with Dish don't fall through, expect something soon.