AT&T passed on Dish deal because of regulatory concerns, but Dish could still team with Sprint or T-Mobile (or both)

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, AT&T (NYSE: T) CFO John Stephens said the carrier considered a purchase of Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) spectrum holdings, but ultimately decided against making a move over concerns that regulators at the FCC and Department of Justice might squash the deal. The FCC's upcoming spectrum auctions--AWS-3, scheduled for later this year, and the 600 MHz auction scheduled for next year--also pushed AT&T away from a transaction with Dish and toward a purchase of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), Stephens said.

"Dish has spectrum. And that spectrum would raise additional regulatory scrutiny and questions at a time when some FCC spectrum auctions are scheduled," Stephens said. See this article for more.

The question now, of course, is what Dish will do next. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, recent comments from Verizon's CEO Lowell McAdam indicate that a Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is not interested in purchasing Dish's spectrum holdings either. But Dish could still some kind of partnership with either Sprint (NYSE: S) or T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS).

Specifically, the Journal noted that Dish could attempt to make a deal with T-Mobile if Sprint's purchase of T-Mobile is blocked by regulators. And a partnership between Dish and T-Mobile would be aided by the rumored $1 billion breakup fee that Sprint would have to pay T-Mobile if their merger were to fail. Indeed, officials at the FCC and DoJ have made it clear that they are interested in retaining four nationwide wireless providers.

(As a side note, BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk pointed out that Sprint and parent SoftBank could appease regulators by promising to adhere to strict net neutrally guidelines in a merger with T-Mobile.)

And, if Sprint and T-Mobile are successful at a merger, Dish could ultimately partner with that combined company. Article

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