The rumors have been percolating up through the internet for months that Sprint (and parent company SoftBank) was nearing a deal to buy controlling interest in T-Mobile US, but a French company you've probably never heard of just threw a monkey wrench in the works. Iliad has offered $15 billion in cash for 56.6% of T-Mobile.

The proposed acquisition values T-Mobile at $36.20 per share (after the deal), which would be a good deal for current T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom. Iliad has made a name for itself in the French mobile market by offering steeply discounted prices, forcing the larger players to follow suit. It's actually similar to what T-Mobile has been doing with the Uncarrier strategy. Iliad says it already has the financing in place to make the deal happen if Deutsche Telekom agrees.

Working in Iliad's favor could be US regulatory agencies, which might look more favorably upon the Iliad deal. The acquisition by SoftBank would result in a Sprint/T-Mobile merger and one fewer wireless carrier in the US. Iliad is currently a non-entity in the US market, so there are no anti-trust worries. It's possible that Sprint could increase its offer to beat Iliad, but either way, things just got interesting.

[Wall Street Journal, Iliad (PDF) – Thanks Yann]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play.

  • Zack Mills

    This is great news!

  • remister

    Shots fired!!!!

  • Lupe Fiasco

    I rather T-Mobile end up not being bought as they are doing fine on there own in my opinion, but I rather have lliad buy T-Mobile than Sprint.

    • ddpacino

      DT has been trying to sell it for years. Once they finally find a suitor, it's a rap.

      • kahjksd

        I wonder why DT wants to dump tmo? Supposedly tmo have great spectrum, well established lte, great customer service, and can operate competetively on price... so what gives?

        • mgamerz

          they aren't making money for DT

        • tomokatsu

          Well T-Mo was really hamstrung until that AT&T deal fell through. Before that point, they would never have been able to compete (didn't have the capital or spectrum).

          Since that point, T-Mo has been growing, but until this quarter, remained unprofitable (even this quarter was largely due to sale of excess spectrum). Even now, their margins are much lower than AT&T/Verizon. DT just isn't interested in the US market and wants to be able to focus on their others.

    • exadeci

      Well you can hope it's Iliad they are the price breakers in france now we have Unlimited calls in france and 50 countries, unlimited sms/mms and around 3Go data (20 on their network) for 20€/month

      • ProductFRED

        For us lazy Americans, that's:

        - Unlimited calls in most of Europe
        - Unlimited texts and MMS
        - 20GB LTE / 3GB (roaming?) [4G means LTE in Europe]

        For ~$30 after taxes. About $27 raw conversion, rounded up.

        • halflings

          Not only Europe but also North Africa, US, and other countries.

        • http://dribbble.com/nickchamberlin Nick Chamberlin

          Omg thank you

    • theunknown

      Not sure if you are the real Lupe FIasco But I definitely like the song - Daydreamin'
      Its one of my preferred ringtones

      • A


  • Randy Strye

    while i didn't hate the idea of sprint buying t-mobile as much as at&t, i think i'd rather have them buy it to keep 4 major carriers in the US

    • http://twitter.com/savagejeep SavageJeep

      AT&T/Sprint was/is just going to roll up up their spectrum, and network infrastructure...and then they were 3! One reason the FTC the blocked the original merger was that it would have created less choices with fewer providers. The Sprint deal would do the same. This however does keep T-Mo as a forth player.

      • Randy Strye

        that's exactly what i was saying

  • TaylorSellers

    Assuming the deal isn't blocked by regulators, T-Mo may still choose Sprint because that deal brings both cash and spectrum, while the Ilium deal is cash only. T-Mobile arguably needs spectrum more than it needs money right now.

    • ddpacino

      This does make a lot of sense. A better network, especially with their plans, will bring in more customers, thus more money.

    • Bryan Pizzuti

      You need to look at what spectrum Sprint brings. The 800 Mhz band is widespread but limited in its utility. The BRS spectrum would be a terrible idea to keep, AWS doesn't need to be deployed as densely. The extra PCS spectrum would be nice, but guaranteed the FCC and FTC force them to divest some of it. And probably some of the 700 MHz spectrum T-Mobile just bought too, if they want to keep the 800 Mhz licenses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryanmounce Bryan

    I have Free currently (Iliad is the parent company of Free) in central Paris. All I can say is that I hope that they have plans to make T-Mobile's signal strength better than Free's... I'm in central Paris and drop signal constantly. I do love how cheap it is though...

    • Arthur Jolivet

      I have orange's sosh for mobile but free for home ans free's bandwidth is horrible. I hope it won't buy T-Mobile for the Americans's benefit ^^

    • EowynCarter

      Seconded. I left free some time ago, tired of being unable to acces the play store, or google maps.
      Went to B&You RED, and came back to sosh in the end.

      Left them for bouyges at home, steam and orgin being slow did it. And the realisation I was eligible to cable.

      But yeah, we own them normal prices :)

      • Guillaume

        yep, tried them all as well, and just ended up with sosh, which is the best all around, in my opinion :)

      • dimitriperret

        same... I try free (at the very beginning...) I go directly to sosh... In the US I used to be on T mobile, but not anymore I choose ATT which is much more better. I would love Illiad to buy T mobile and make US plan cheaper... 65$ for 2,5go, is way too much !!

    • exadeci

      If they buy T-mobile they will have T-mobile network coverage in the US nothing similiar to deploying their own network.

      • sadface

        Yep but once they will reach critical mass they wont upgrading the network saying shit like how it's up to Google, Netflix... to pay to improve the network

    • Amarus Kh

      I've mistakenly switched from B&YOU to Free because I was tempted by the 20GB of 4G and now it feels like my phone only has WiFi.
      I get absolutely no signal at work so I can't even use calls/texts and barely (in the north-western area of Paris) and the same for most of metro network. I'm probably going to switch back before my next bill.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bryanmounce Bryan

        It is pretty terrible. It's hard because it's so cheap! I never get 4G, though, and I'm in the city centre...

        • nickolaszev

          I am in Grenoble and I get 4G, but 4G is not a good technology... the battery drains within hours. I always switch to 3G.

          And come on. For 16 euros (I also have their package for internet, TV and landline) I get:
          *Unlimited calls to landlines to 100 destinations (almost, this is a marketing thing, i.e. Cyclades, Crete, Corfou are all part of Greece)
          *Free ROAMING 35 days per year to specific countries
          *20GB internet
          * Unlimited calls to mobiles in France, US and Canada,
          * A very organised site, for nearly everything you want to know.

    • mgamerz

      This is for T-Mobile US not DT T-Mobile which is European. Though DT owns the US version.

    • the_bunny

      Free was the best thing that happened to France from a consumer point of view. While their service was crap and I stayed a client with them for only 2 month as I could not bare it, all the other operators had to align to their prices or they would not be competitive from a price point of view. So in the end you got Orange's or SFR's services for Free's prices, which is the best deal possible.

  • motoridersd

    BOOM! Yes! Would be better if DK felt like their investment in T-Mobile was worth keeping, but if someone else wants to buy their part I hope it's because they believe what Tmo is doing now is worth funding.

  • Guillaume

    Believe me, you don't want Free to buy Tmobile, with Free, at peak hours it's almost impossible to have decent speeds outside of France, especially with google services, and youtube, the speeds are just horrendous.
    The price is good, but thus they don't invest that much in their network.

    • ddpacino

      T-Mobile's network is pretty flawless to me where I am, which adds more bang for my buck on the $30 prepaid plan.

      They're not going to uproot the current network and replace it with a shitty one. So no worries here.

      • Guillaume

        yeah for now, but a network needs to be constantly upgraded, and new towers need to be implanted in new areas ...

      • EowynCarter

        Yup. Situation in france is differant, the network here is a work in progress.

    • halflings

      With Free: 2 hours of calls + unlimited SMS/MMS = 2 euros. (yes, 2 euros)
      For 20 euros: Unlimited calls, SMS and unlimited data! (4G/LTE up to 20GB/month)

  • NicholePAmador

    Iliad has made a name for itself in the French mobile market by offering steeply discounted prices, forcing the larger players to follow suit. It's actually similar to what T-Mobile has been doing with the Uncarrier strategy. Iliad says it already has the financing in place to make the deal happen if Deutsche Telekom agrees. http://num.to/525-862-699-481

  • Serge Cebrian

    Come on Carlos Slim!! are you going to let Iliad take away T-mo from your hands?

    i think it would be a better buy out if Mexico Buys T-mo, as it would inmprove itinerance prices.. (imagine a full continent of america roaming free) as America movil has a lot of precense in mexico down to south america

    i think slim has some presence in USA as tracfone and Simple Mobile if im not mistaken. it works as a MVNO so with T-mo it would have a real presence...

    and definitively he has the cash to do it..

    • JLM

      Carlos makes his money by controlling whole markets, that's wouldn't be the case if he came to the US. If he thought Verizon or At&t were under valued, he'd probably make a play for one of those since they have so much more market share.

  • Adam B.

    Unlimited calls + mms + sms + 20MB for 2$ too !

  • David Boyer

    Iliad S.A. in the USA ? Ho ho ho ... Excellent (I'm a Free Mobile user with a Nexus 4 phone) !

    • Steph Chi

      +1! Xavier always surprising ;-)

  • qubius

    A much better deal for the U.S. consumer and U.S. worker and DT.

  • qubius

    Iliad will save Sprint a lot of wasted time and $2 billion in brake-up fees.

  • qubius

    T- Mobile only has 17 of the top 25 metro markets of 700 MHz low -band spectrum. It will need a lot more low- band spectrum . IIiad has no low-band spectrum to bring to the table.

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