For the second time in three years, wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile are reportedly discussing a merger.
The talks are still preliminary, and neither company has yet hired bankers to explore the deal, Bloomberg reports. T-Mobile is currently the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., and Sprint is the fourth. Together they have an estimated 98 million subscribers, according to Bloomberg Intelligence -- which would make the combined company second only to Verizon in terms of wireless customers.
At this point, it's not yet clear that the companies will agree on a deal, much less that it will win regulatory approval. In 2014, T-Mobile had agreed to be acquired by Sprint in a deal worth an estimated $32 billion. But federal regulators blocked the merger due to antitrust concerns. If the deal had gone through, the country would have been left with just three major wireless carriers.
Of course, today's regulatory landscape is different than in 2014. But observers aren't yet certain how the Trump administration will view this kind of merger.
Already, however, consumer advocates are raising alarms about the potential deal -- which Free Press CEO Craig Aaron has already condemned as unjustified. "It’s motivated by pure greed and a desire to reach deeper into people’s wallets," he stated today.
Aaron also pointed out that consumers have benefitted from competition between the four major carriers. In the last several months, AT&T and Verizon have expanded the availability of unlimited data plans -- largely in response to moves by T-Mobile and Sprint.