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AT&T trying to save T-Mobile merger by selling customers and spectrum to Leap Wireless, says NYT

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The New York Times says AT&T is considering selling a big chunk of customers and spectrum to Leap Wireless in order to get regulatory approval of its proposed merger with T-Mobile.

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The AT&T / T-Mobile merger story is starting to veer into faintly ridiculous territory: first Bloomberg reported that AT&T was considering selling off up to 40 percent of T-Mo in order to appease the regulators at the DOJ and FCC who oppose the deal, and now the New York Times says the most likely suitor is Leap Wireless. That's tiny, tiny Leap Wireless, which has about seven million no-contract customers on its Cricket and Jump Mobile brands — that's compared to something like 33 million for T-Mobile and slightly north of 100 million for AT&T. The NYT says that AT&T will sell a mix of T-Mobile customers and spectrum to Leap, but doesn't specify the split — we'd guess it's tilted towards customers, since AT&T has been painting the merger as a spectrum acquisition story.

Now, we're not sure why AT&T would bank its $39 billion merger proposal on a company that does just over $700 million in quarterly revenue, but given the widespread opposition to the deal in the industry we'd say AT&T is probably taking what it can get — it's not like Sprint was going to step in to help make this deal happen. We'll see if this move satisfies the DOJ and FCC; we've got a feeling the crazy train is just starting to roll.