T-Mobile and Sprint haven’t been talking publicly about their merger much lately, but the rumor mill is working to keep up in the loop with leaks and other info.
Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen is reportedly in talks with U.S. regulators and T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom about a deal that would see Dish become a competitive fourth U.S. carrier, satisfying the Department of Justice and helping T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger get approval.
According to CNBC sources, the talks currently revolve around Dish using the new T-Mobile’s network to host its spectrum until it can complete its own network buildout, which could take years. The parties are trying to determine how long Dish would be able to use new T-Mo’s network and the economic terms of a revenue-sharing deal. Dish is also expected to buy Boost Mobile and some spectrum from T-Mobile and Sprint, but parts of the deal are not the focus of the discussions.
These talks between Dish, regulators, and DT are expected to continue into next week.
Today’s report also notes that Dish may have an edge in the discussions because it would pose less of a threat to the new T-Mobile than other companies, such as Amazon, who has also been linked to a Boost Mobile purchase. Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank (majority owner of Sprint) aren’t concerned about Dish because they know Dish will only use the new T-Mo network for a set amount of time and because the cost of building out a new network could keep Dish at bay for a while.
Dish has a large collection of spectrum, and the FCC has been pressuring Dish to put it to use. Dish promised the FCC in 2013 that it would provide broadband coverage to 70 percent of the population in the 176 markets that are part of the licenses by March 2020. However, Dish has been planning to build a narrowband network for Internet of Things use with that spectrum rather than making an actual wireless competitor. Rumors have said that Dish’s Ergen wants the FCC to eliminate that March 2020 deadline in exchange for buying T-Mo and Sprint’s assets.
Despite all of these talks going on between Dish, regulators, T-Mobile, Sprint, and their parent companies, there’s no guarantee that the merger will get done. Not only is there a lawsuit from a group of state attorneys general who want to block the deal, but Dish’s Ergen is known for being a tough negotiator. He was recently described as “a deal guy” and that “the best deal for him will come when everyone else is spent.”