Dish Network is spectrum shopping again, and this time it may play a role in the approval of the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that Dish is the lead bidder on the spectrum Sprint and T-Mobile are divesting in hopes of winning regulatory approval for their $26.5 billion merger. The news is particularly interesting as Dish is a member of the 4Competition Coalition, an organization of wireless groups and other companies that have led the charge against the merger.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) is concerned that the merger would harm consumers by reducing competition in the wireless market. If approved, the merger would reduce the number of nationwide wireless carriers from four to three. A group of 10 state attorneys general recently stepped up efforts to block the deal, echoing competition concerns.
Sprint and T-Mobile have agreed to sell off Sprint’s prepaid brand Boost Mobile, and both companies have pledged to divest some spectrum assets, in an attempt to preserve competition in the market. The WSJ reports the DoJ would prefer to keep the prepaid subscribers and spectrum assets together. The agency has also considered requiring the emergence of a fourth carrier as part of its approval.
Citing unnamed sources, WSJ said Dish Network is in talks to buy prepaid subscribers and wireless spectrum from the two companies, but cable operators Altice and Charter Communications are also interested.
Dish Network has accrued billions worth of spectrum assets over the years, and has yet to put much of it to use. According to New Street Research, Dish is at risk of losing licenses for as much as $35 billion in spectrum, although the operator is in the midst of building a limited 5G network.
A deal with Dish could present a win-win scenario for all parties involved. Dish may be best poised to offer a nationwide wireless challenge as a fourth carrier, satisfying the DoJ’s competition concerns; and the deal could also enable Dish to finally put its spectrum to use and launch a nationwide carrier business.