Is the T-Mobile, Sprint merger still on track? Good question. Let’s take a closer look. It’s currently on hold at the FCC level. They have been getting major push-back from a variety of interests. So, what happens if it’s denied? Let’s take a look at what happens next for these two companies if this deal is not approved, and as we move into a 5G world.

Let’s pull the camera back and take a longer-term perspective on this merger, 5G and the changing industry. It took several years and several attempts. They tried and failed, time and time again. It never even got to the government level. Then, several months ago, T-Mobile and Sprint finally agreed to merge. This is as far as it has ever gone before.

Think about the wireless industry. The vast majority of market share is split among the top four national carriers, AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint. Over the last several decades, we have seen both AT&T and Verizon carve out the winning position in the competitive race.

T-Mobile and Sprint recovery in wireless

Several years ago, both T-Mobile and Sprint were dying on the vine. Then John Legere joined T-Mobile as their new CEO and started shaking up the company and inflaming the industry.

In recent years, T-Mobile has shown growth. They have done a great job with marketing. Their weakness, lack of spectrum. They don’t have enough wireless data spectrum. That will increasingly pinch their growth potential as the industry continues to move into the coming 5G world.

Sprint was acquired by Softbank with CEO Masayoshi Son. He hired Marcelo Claure to be CEO of Sprint. They tried several different times to stabilize the company and show growth. Sprint had a few good periods with growth, but they still struggle today.

Sprint makes lemonade out of lemons

However, Sprint has one very valuable thing. They have loads of wireless data spectrum. Since they don’t have as much retail business as AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile, Sprint is building their wholesale business. That’s smart. A way to make lemonade out of lemons.

However, the wireless industry is moving from 4G to 5G over the next several years and that is both the enormous challenge and opportunity. AT&T and Verizon are both fully prepared and able to take advantage of this new opportunity.

T-Mobile and Sprint however, both have a problem. Alone, neither of them have what they need. T-Mobile doesn’t have the spectrum and Sprint doesn’t have the cutting-edge marketing talent.

That seems to be on everyone’s mind of late. Together they could be a strong third place competitor. Separately, they will remain three and four and they will find it more difficult to continue to grow in the coming 5G world.

Could T-Mobile and Sprint really be leaders in 5G world?

They both talk about the role they will play in the 5G revolution. Frankly, I don’t get it. They both want to be players, of course. However, they won’t shake up or shape the industry in the same way as AT&T and Verizon will. They are smaller companies.

So, the bottom line question we face today: Will the T-Mobile and Sprint merger be approved or not? Will they be a strong third place competitor in the coming 5G world, or will they remain stuck in the 4G world?

If they are denied, they will find it difficult to grow and compete in the new 5G world. Then again, this merger has been tried so many times before it makes your head spin. If it is denied today, I believe they will continue to try an merge again, and again, and again, until it finally happens.

I don’t have an answer yet. It all depends on what regulators think and what they do with the merger. Will they look backwards to 4G or forwards to 5G? So, we’ll just have to sit back, wait and see. But this is an interesting new chapter in this very long story of M&A for both T-Mobile and Sprint.

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