T-Mobile is putting all its resources behind getting the mega-merger with Sprint across the finish line. But when that’s done, could T-Mobile go after an even bigger deal?
A “confidential” strategy document from late 2015, revealed as part of the lawsuit from several states seeking to block the T-Mobile-Sprint deal, lays out a playbook for helping the company grow over the next few years. It starts with a merger with then-struggling Sprint, followed by the suggestion of a subsequent merger with Comcast or another large cable company.
It’s worth noting that T-Mobile has done something similar to this plan already, when it acquired acquired Denver-based Layer3 for $325 million in late 2017. However, the Layer3 deal is nowhere near the size and scale of a potential merger with the nation’s biggest cable carrier.
Earlier this year, T-Mobile launched its first TV offering based on a smart set-top box that gets to know viewing habits. However, the service is not exactly the big cable disruptor that the self-proclaimed “Un-carrier” hinted at for more than a year.
It’s unclear if the acquisition of Layer3 quenched executives’ thirst for a big cable deal, or if an idea like merging with Comcast or another big company is still on the table. We’ve reached out to T-Mobile for comment and we will update this post if we hear back.
The document, filed in court Monday by the states, is meant to highlight T-Mobile’s internal merger discussions in recent years. Attorneys general from a dozen states and the District of Columbia claim in a lawsuit that the merger will hurt U.S. wireless competition and raise prices by removing Sprint as the nation’s major low-cost carrier.
The document shows that T-Mobile and its parent company Deutsche Telekom at the time saw major mergers as the best option for continued growth. That’s hardly a surprise given the company’s actions over the past decade.
T-Mobile was set to be acquired by AT&T in 2011 for $39 billion. But that deal fell apart, and it wasn’t long before the first round of rumblings of a Sprint merger started to percolate.
The document also shows that T-Mobile has been laying the groundwork for the Sprint deal for years now. Executives note that U.S. regulators at the time were unlikely to allow the U.S. mobile market to be consolidated down to three players. Newer mobile entrants weren’t likely to become major players, the document said, making it harder to argue that competition won’t be hurt.
That’s where Dish Network comes in. T-Mobile and Sprint have worked to prop up the satellite giant as a viable mobile alternative.
As part of the merger, the companies will divest a big chunk of spectrum that will go to Dish. T-Mobile and Sprint are arguing that Dish’s emergence makes up for the potential loss of competition that would come from a merger of the third and fourth largest mobile carriers in the U.S.
The four-year-old internal document telegraphed this strategy, noting that “Dish’s massive spectrum could lead to mid-term spectrum deal.”