FierceWireless says that SoftBank and T-Mobile US parent Deutsche Telekom have reportedly reached a “basic agreement” for Sprint to merge with T-Mobile, according to a report in the Japanese business publication Nikkei.
Deutsche Telekom, which owns 67 percent of T-Mobile, has agreed sell more than 50 percent of T-Mobile’s shares to Sprint, the Nikkei report said.
Reportedly, SoftBank will pay cash and will use stock swaps to cover the estimated purchase price of more than $16 billion. Multiple reports in early June indicated that Sprint would pay $32 billion for T-Mobile in a transaction that would combine the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers, so a $16 billion price tag for around 50 percent is inline with those reports.
According to the Nikkei report, the two sides are still hammering out the details of the deal, which would give the combined carrier close to 100 million customers, nearing the scale of AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless. Eight financial institutions will reportedly help SoftBank finance the deal.
The FCC says AT&T and Verizon command around 70 percent of all low-band spectrum licenses (below 1 GHz). Sprint and T-Mobile hold around 15 percent of all low-band spectrum licenses, so the combined company should be eligible for bidding on large chunks of 600 MHz spectrum next year.
Duplicating 600 MHz macrocell infrastructure would not be cheap. Combining towers, infrastructure and management is anticipated to save big bucks.
The tricky bit would be FCC and Justice approval.
The loose cannon is Dish Networks. They will also bid for 600 MHz spectrum. Would Dish partner with Google, Amazon or Facebook to create a new “4th Network”? If it pencils out, sure. But who would “host” such a network? A combined T-Mobile/Sprint would have spectrum to burn. They wouldn’t need Dish spectrum.
AT&T hopes to buy DirecTV for $49 billion, so Verizon could be a possibility for Dish — but that would just eliminate a competitor (after Dish acquires 600 MHz frequencies). God help us if Comcast joined forces with Dish, an outcome that could be increasingly likely if T-Mobile and Sprint merge.
Perhaps a Japanese or South Korean carrier could run the show for Dish for a 50% stake. Consider that a Softbank takeover of Sprint seemed far-fetched 2 years ago.