Sprint and T-Mobile have had something of a rocky journey trying to get their $26.5 billion merger approved over the last year or so. As of late, the two carriers have been told they must offload Sprint prepaid MVNO Boost Mobile in order to get closer to a deal approval, and Cable giant Dish Network may be the one to take it off their hands.
That's the latest from the Wall Street Journal, which says that Dish Network is actually in the front running for Boost Mobile as well as some of Sprint's wireless spectrum. Charter Communications and Altice, Inc. are the other two bidding competitors. And even in the midst of Sprint and T-Mobile's decision to sell of Boost Mobile and some of its wireless spectrum, the DoJ wants the merger to sell additional assets.
The Justice Department's concern with the Sprint/T-Mobile merger is that it would create a company it feels is too large. The merging companies have their sights set on competing with the likes of Verizon and AT&T in the wireless space.
T-Mobile was once the fourth-largest carrier in the US until CEO John Legere started to shake things up with his bold claims and sweet deals for T-Mobile customers. Now, Sprint has become the fourth-largest carrier. Sprint says it needs this merger in order to survive, though earlier it said that it didn't need the deal.
Dish Network's Executive Chairman Charlie Ergen is a familiar face when it comes to buying companies. Ergen has tried to buy Sprint twice, T-Mobile once, as well as MetroPCS, all in vain. Dish has acquired wireless spectrum over the years but is unable to finish building out its network and is in customer decline with 1 million subscriber departures last year.
The FCC has threatened to take some of Dish's wireless spectrum licenses if the company doesn't do something with what it has. Selling Boost Mobile to Dish Network would give the satellite/cable company a legitimate phone business with which to apply its wireless spectrum licenses. It would offload Boost Mobile from the Sprint and T-Mobile merger, not allowing the merger to be too big so as to create suspicion.
Selling off Boost Mobile and wireless spectrum aren't the only promises Sprint and T-Mobile have made to push the merger forward; the two carriers have also promised to keep prices in check for three years, not to raise them right away in the new merger, to create jobs rather than reduce jobs (typical merger behavior), and that it would create 5G home internet service (rural broadband) for customers who don't have access to other networks.
At one point, T-Mobile said that the 5G movement was "fake" but the carrier now wants to play nice in order to get the merger approved. Dish Network is interested in any carrier that wants to sell its business to Dish. The company is also currently open to a Pay-TV merger with AT&T regarding the carrier's DIRECTV satellite TV business.
Both Dish and AT&T have had customer declines in their service offerings, which may explain their desire to merge. Still, with Dish Network possibly getting Sprint's Boost Mobile, the satellite company may also scoop up DIRECTV as well, making Dish a more powerful company than it has been up until now — possibly supplying a new fourth carrier in the place of Sprint.