As expected, on Friday regulators at the Department of Justice agreed to let the juggernaut T-Mobile/Sprint deal go through after the companies agreed to sell off pieces to Dish. Dish will apparently become the #4 player in the market, leveraging the spectrum it has been sitting on plus the Boost Mobile business and some supporting agreements. Now what?
Well, there are still a few hoops left to jump through. The FCC may have indicated its support, but they haven't formally had a vote yet. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is moving to make that happen, so it won't be long - probably September. Some states signed on to the new arrangement with the DoJ, but New York at least appears skeptical. However, it looks as if the big hurdles have been jumped, and sometime next month the deal may actually close.
When it does, there will be plenty of things to keep an eye on:
- How fast will Dish move? Or, in fact will they move? The company has been threatening to enter the wireless business with spectrum buys and merger dreams, but has actually done very little on the ground to date. There is certainly an opportunity here to build something really new, a greenfield 5G network with the cloud running through its veins and no legacy infrastructure to slow it down. But building out a new 5G network from the ground up is not something one just starts doing out of the blue. There's a lot of engineering to be done, a lot of permitting, and a lot of, well, you know, work to do first. They'll need people to do that work that they don't have right now, so our first indication of a rising #4 will perhaps be the hiring of those people.
- How painful will the integration be? The focus has all been on getting approval for the deal, but in the past there have always been questions about just how easy it will be to combine the actual networks and business units of T-Mobile and Sprint. The combined company might just look to 5G as the integrator, leaving the existing infrastructure alone and relatively independent. Hence, there may be less disruption to existing backhaul providers in the short term, just one less potential buyer for 5G-related buildouts until Dish shows up. Which leads to...
- How fast will T-Mobile/Sprint move to build out 5G? More quickly than Dish will, surely. Having the scale to build out 5G competitively is what this was all about, and they've lost enough time already. They'll also be looking to justify the deal to doubters, and moving swiftly to build out 5G is the highest profile way to do that. A surge in infrastructure spending from them could be in the offing.
- Whatever shall we argue about next? If it seems as if this deal has been the main point of contention in the industry for half a decade, well it pretty much has. All that's left now is Huawei I guess. Ugh.
What are your thoughts on this deal now? Good, bad, ugly, all of the above? Comment below.
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