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No. 3 Sprint mulls bid for no. 4 T-Mobile USA

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The nation's third-largest carrier, Sprint, is eyeing a bid for the smallest of the U.S.' Big Four wireless carriers, T-Mobile USA, according to anonymous sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal. The possible acquisition would come only about two years since the DOJ torpedoed AT&T's $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA.

Despite that past failure, and the hints it gives regarding a new deal, Sprint is interested in combining the country's no. 3 and no. 4 wireless carriers, which could give the merged company the assets it needs to upgrade its infrastructure and network to combat Verizon and AT&T, the nation's no. 1 and no. 2 carriers, respectively. Driving the effort is Softbank, which acquired a controlling interest in Sprint earlier this year, and its CEO Masayoshi Son, who has made no secret of his aim to expand in the U.S. via further deals.

SoftBank currently owns over 80 percent of Sprint.

Still, regulatory approval can be seen as a huge hurdle, despite the fact that combining no. 3 and no. 4 would result in a company that still badly trails no. 1 and no. 2 in terms of postpaid subscribers. The new company would have nearly 53 million postpaid subscribers, which would still be a far distant third to Verizon Wireless, which has about 95 million postpaid subscribers, and AT&T, which has around 72 million.

Sprint has not yet decided whether or not to move ahead with a bid for T-Mobile USA. Regulators have previously expressed concern that prices would rise if the nation lacked a large fourth national carrier. At the same time, Deutsche Telekom AG, which owns about 67 percent of T-Mobile USA, is looking to possibly exit the U.S. market.

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