The satellite TV honchos from Dish have been at the forefront of the T-Mobile and Sprint merger opposition, as they have expressed their suspicions about the reduction in competition and boost of prices numerous times in front of the FCC.
Now, however, after it became clear that the carriers may have to divest their successful prepaid businesses and other assets if they want to merge as scheduled, Dish is first in line for the goods.
Boost, Metro by T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile - these are household pay-as-you-go names with millions of subscribers and immediate brand recognition, and they may have to go. Just a few months ago, a T-Mobile exec was arguing that the prepaid businesses will stay unharmed by the merger. Fast forward to the current regulatory scrutiny, and the plans for revamping the merger proposal apparently include "selling airwave licenses or setting up a new fourth carrier through a network-leasing arrangement
," too, both of which sound much less palatable than simply selling Boost or Metro.
The DoJ’s antitrust department that has to sign off, and the Federal Communications Commission, will have to be placated somehow if T-Mobile and Sprint want the merger to still have any chance of passing through, and apparently prepaid is the way. The issue, however, is that the two carriers together hold more than 40% of the pay-as-you-go market, followed by the carrier-agnostic TracFone with 32%, and Cricket with 25%.
You don't lose it, you lose it
Dish has reportedly started talks to "buy prepaid subscribers and wireless spectrum licenses from the merger partners
," claim Wall Street Journal
sources. Apparently, the Department of Justice which will have the final say in the merger approval, prefers that all those assets be acquired by a single buyer, creating a fourth alternative to the big resulting three carriers of sorts.
Since Dish is sitting on $30 billion worth of spectrum licenses it will lose if it doesn't put them to some kind of use, acquiring Boost, Metro and various T-Mobile and Sprint frequencies will allow it to form some sort of a more complete package with its own licenses. There are other players that want in on the action, though, like the cable companies Charter or Altice, clarified the insiders, so the Dish talks are far from a done deal. Amazon is also rumored to be interested in Boost
, so the vultures are circling the eventual asset divestment carcass as if the merger is certain to go ahead, just like the latest rumor claims.