Dealmaking: Sprint, Dish, & Everybody in the Pool

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Sprint Nextel held merger and partnership talks with four companies, according to a Sprint regulatory filing. In a the proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sprint detailed its deal-making from September 2011 to February 2012, where it discussed a potential combination with “Company W,” thought to be MetroPCS.

The filing also notes that from May through September 2011, Sprint discussed with “Company X” a transaction in which Sprint would acquire additional spectrum. Sprint and Company X would enter into other commercial arrangements. It is unclear which firm Company X is, but it appears the deal never went anywhere.

In May 2012 Sprint began talking with “Company Y” about a potential business combination and a joint venture. Sprint’s discussions with Company Y continued periodically through Sept. 6, 2012, but ultimately did not lead to a transaction. When Softbank first approached Sprint in July 2012 there was talk of a potential three-party transaction among Sprint, Softbank and Company Y.

Finally, Sprint notes that from May 2012 until September 2012, Sprint discussed with “Company Z” spectrum partnering opportunities. Company Z is likely Dish Network.

Satellite analyst Tim Farrar says some are obvious (A=T-Mobile, B=AT&T, C=MetroPCS, D=China Mobile, F=LightSquared, H=Verizon) and some are more speculative (E=Google? G=one of the hedge funds invested in Clearwire, I=Samsung or Qualcomm?), but what stands out is the lack of bids for Clearwire’s spectrum at an attractive price.

AT&T now appears to be focused on a combination of its 700MHz LTE network (bulking up with the B block purchase from Verizon), adding more cellular and PCS from Alltel, and adding 20 MHz of WCS spectrum (2.3 GHz) from its NextWave purchase. But what’s AT&T got for immediate LTE expansion? Not much. They may be waiting for 600 MHz.

It’s going to be a long wait. Ignoring 2.6 GHz is an act of hubris.

Dish’s fate remains unknown. Perhaps something will be announced by Mobile World Congress by the end of this month. But nailing down a Dish deal with the fate of the 600 MHz band still up in the air, seems like a long shot.

For new carriers, the combination of 600 MHz (licensed) and 2.1 GHz (from Dish) might seem compelling from a coverage point of view…but devices supporting those frequencies are likely years away. They’re unlikely to be commodity devices.

Clearwire will interoperate with China Mobile, Softbank and most of India. That means Apple’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy, LG’s Nexus, Nokia’s Windows Phones, as well as Huawei and ZTE will flood the market with TD-LTE handsets. Interoperablity. Now.

Yes, 2.6 GHz has lousy propagation. But the band is harmonized world-wide – and it’s got bandwidth to burn. It can rival AT&T’s IPTV.

Google may fantasize about unlicensed 600Mhz spectrum — but they’ll act on 2.6GHz. Google Fiber compliments 2.6 GHz urban hotspots. Lower cost. More eyeballs.

It may also work for Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. Prime partners for Dish.

Free broadband, sponsored by location-based ads, is not a pipe dream. It’s a right.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood, T-Mobile: iPhone, LTE, Contract-free, Unlimited data, Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Seattle’s Gigabit Fiber CityNet, Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City, Small Cells for Cisco, Sprint to use Light Radio for Small Cells, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud, Clearwire: On the Hot Zone, Sprint to use LightRadio for Small Cells, LTE iPhone: Game Changer?

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 at 1:04 pm .

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