The number of major wireless carriers in the United States could shrink from four to three. Sprint and T-Mobile have announced that they intend to merge. The merger will need to be approved by regulators and the companies’ shareholders.
The combined company will be based in Bellevue, Washington, and it will be called T-Mobile. Current T-Mobile CEO John Legere will run the combined company, while T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert will become the new company’s COO and president. T-Mobile’s majority owner Deutsche Telekom will hold a 42 percent stake in the company, while Sprint’s majority owner SoftBank will hold 27 percent, with public stakeholders holding the rest. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son will sit on the combined company’s board.
The companies say that by combining, they’ll be able to lower prices and take advantage of “greater economies of scale.” The two companies have trailed their larger rivals, AT&T and Verizon, and the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile will help give them a boost as they begin to deploy their next-generation 5G network across the country. The combined company will have nearly 100 million customers.
The merger comes after years of on-and-off talks between the two companies. Sprint had been prepared to buy T-Mobile in 2014, but those talks didn’t go anywhere. They resumed those talks in May of last year and came close in September to reaching a deal, only for Sprint to call them off in October. T-Mobile then made its own offer in November, but that quickly collapsed as well. The talks resumed again earlier this month, and on Friday, CNBC said that the two were closing in on a merger to the tune of $26 billion.
While the two companies have agreed to merge, they still have an uphill battle before that actually happens: the deal will have to be cleared by regulators, who might not be happy about the smaller number of carriers. In 2011, a planned merger between AT&T and T-Mobile attracted fierce resistance from regulators, and it was ultimately canceled.