As the Sprint/T-Mobile deal continues to fight for regulatory approval, perhaps the most interesting story to emerge is the prospect of Amazon becoming a wireless player on its own. The idea seems to be for Amazon to buy Boost from Sprint as well as a pile of spectrum, bootstrapping its way into direct competition with the big 3.
Despite winning the favor of the FCC chairman, T-Mobile and Sprint are still struggling to appease regulators at the DOJ. The DOJ reportedly wants a 4th competitor to somehow emerge from the fray, and this is one credible way it could happen.
But is it actually credible? Amazon’s huge retail and cloud presence certainly mean it has the customer reach and technological core to do it. But building a nextgen wireless and backhaul network from scratch is not an easy task, and it’s something that would require a lot of focus from Amazon on a business model that is entirely new to them. It’s a business that requires infrastructure that will never be as centralized as its cloud business has become.
On the other hand, we could think of the parallels over in India with the rise of Reliance Jio. A relentlessly disruptive pricing model backed by a company with the resources to hold the line against incumbents with more debt and less agility exposed weaknesses that had not been perceived prior.
If anything, Amazon would seem to have a better shot at it than Jio did initially, if they really wanted to. With its own cloud and fiber infrastructure already reaching out to the network edge, with the tower and metro backhaul sectors stable and ready to help, with regulators seeking more competition, and with 5G deployment schedules and economics already disrupted by the Huawei ban, it seems as if the time might be ripe.
While the other big tech/cloud players also have deep enough pockets, they don’t seem that interested taking on the wireless sector. Given its discount retail origins, Amazon is surely the most dangerous potential entrant to the wireless business. But again, they’d really have to want to do it. Right I think it’s just a spreadsheet thing, but that could change quickly.
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