We all know how annoying it can be when you've got two friends who are clearly into each other, but neither one of them has the guts to make a move. So, everyone around them has to put up with the awkwardness and tension. That's where T-Mobile and Sprint are right now. They've almost gotten together a few times, only to have things fall apart at the last minute. Now, the carriers are reportedly entering into merger talks again. Maybe they'll finally seal the deal this time.
Sprint has been on a downward trajectory in recent years, having lost the number three spot in the US market to an ascendant T-Mobile. Sprint might not have as many customers, but it does have a big pile of spectrum. Meanwhile, T-Mobile's subscriber base has grown rapidly, but it's still far short of AT&T and Verizon. A merger with Sprint would put the new entity in the same league as the other carriers, and give it a big boost as we enter the 5G era.
The last T-Mobile/Sprint merger was called off just five months ago. This is now the third time the carriers have talked about getting together in the last four years, so what's changed in five months? According to reports, the sticking point last time was that Softbank didn't want to give up control of the combined carrier. However, Sprint's fortunes haven't turned around. Faced with the cost of building out a 5G network, Softbank might be leaning toward a merger again.
Even if the talks are successful this time, US regulators would need to approve the deal. There's no guarantee of that, either. The Justice Department is currently suing AT&T over its attempted purchase of Time Warner.