Hot on the heels of the WSJ report that Sprint is looking at buying T-Mobile comes another that has Dish ominously looking at the same thing. Is Charlie Ergen spoiling for a rematch with Masayoshi Son?
Actually, I take the idea of Dish buying T-Mobile a bit more seriously than I do Sprint.
- It would be easier to get past the regulators. The FCC would dearly like four healthy national wireless competitors, and bolstering #4 with more spectrum and aggressive ownership would be almost ideal for them. But a Sprint/T-Mobile deal would take the dynamic down to three.
- Dish needs it more. I'm not sure precisely why they need so badly, but the urgency with which Dish and Ergen fought for Sprint makes it clear that they do. And if T-Mobile gets sold, then Dish would have to start from scratch.
- T-Mobile has the network but needs spectrum. Dish has amassed a pile of unused spectrum, but needs a network. Of course, it's more complicated than that, but on the other hand it's still a much easier equation than Sprint has to solve.
- Ease of integration - while Sprint would have more synergies to achieve they would also face the distraction of a huge and long term integration. Dish, on the other hand, could just provide the necessary firepower to keep T-Mobile's current momentum going.
If Dish and Softbank do square off again next year in a battle over T-Mobile, I actually expect Dish would win it handily. But that assumes that T-Mobile USA is for sale, and it could be that DT's attitude toward its US arm has changed more over the last few quarters than we realize. If the revival continues, they just might want to keep it...