The T-Mobile/Sprint merger deal date has reportedly been extended. There is no new deadline in place, but the new obstacle preventing the deal from going through, aside from the Department of Justice's (DoJ) approval, is T-Mobile's desire that its offloaded Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile carriers and wireless spectrum not be sold to a cable or technology company.
The reason behind this change concerns the new "dark horse" in the transaction. Dish Network was one of the earliest potential buyers in the transaction, and Dish appears to be the clear winner in the offloaded Sprint MVNO carriers and spectrum department. Dish billionaire Charlie Ergen has wireless spectrum of his own that he must use if he doesn't want to lose it, and Boost and Virgin would give him the resources he needs to start what the DoJ expects to be a fourth carrier that can maintain the long-established four-carrier battle in the US.
And yet, Google has entered the picture as a potential partner with Dish to create a new, independent network. Google is currently leasing spectrum from Sprint and T-Mobile through its Google Fi network and doesn't want to continue leasing spectrum when it can co-own a wireless network. Google has directly denied it is in talks with Dish, but apparently T-Mobile thinks so. Final negotiations could include Dish being forced to create its network without any talks with search engine giant Google.
At the time, it was said that T-Mobile was trying to block Google's presence in the acquisition, with the UN-carrier not wanting to see technology giant Google purchase either Sprint MVNO post-merger. With Google's resources, it could build a carrier even bigger than "the New T-Mobile," the merger name expected to prevail if the merger goes through.
T-Mobile doesn't want a carrier with resources to overpower it in the US wireless industry. The whole point of the merger has been to create a third super carrier that can take on the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile is in less of a position to do that if Google or some cable or technology company takes over Boost and Virgin. And Dish could roll out its network easily if it partnered with a technology company like Google that has done its share to roll out Google Fiber.
The DoJ has forced T-Mobile to make concessions such as giving up Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint's Sprint Prepaid brand, as well as wireless spectrum that Dish can lease for 6-7 years in order to create a strong fourth carrier. Ten State Attorneys General and a few states have filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile, alleging that the merger of these two carriers would lead to less competition in the wireless industry and higher prices for consumers.
T-Mobile doesn't mind the DoJ having a strong fourth carrier, as long as that carrier isn't equal to itself in power. So, while T-Mobile is willing to make concessions to see this deal go through, it doesn't want to birth a fourth carrier equal to or more powerful than itself. After all, what would be the point of going through all the hassle with the DoJ to "outman" itself in the deal?
The T-Mobile Sprint merger will cost the Deutsche Telekom-owned Magenta UN-carrier $26.5 billion along with sales of Boost and Virgin Mobile MVNOs to Dish Network (which Dish would acquire for $6 billion). T-Mobile must lease its spectrum to Dish for 6-7 years and provide prepaid support as customers transition from Sprint to Dish for at least 3 years. T-Mobile has also promised it will maintain prices for three years and not raise them immediately post-merger, as well as create thousands of jobs (rather than swallow them whole, another casualty of industry acquisitions).
The T-Mobile Sprint merger deal will see T-Mobile acquire Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum, helping Magenta roll out its 5G network faster than ever. A good look at Speedtest company Ookla's US Mobile Performance Report this week reveals that T-Mobile, in a comfortable third place, needs to do something to take on Verizon and AT&T, labeled the most reliable (Verizon) and the fastest operator (AT&T) in the American wireless industry.