AT&T, Deutsche Telekom Down To Brainstorming: How About A Joint Venture?

Could AT&T (NYSE: T) want T-Mobile’s spectrum and network assets so badly as to contemplate arranging a joint venture between it and T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom? (NYSE: DT) A report Wednesday suggests AT&T is at least talking about that option, which might be a quite complicated way to save face with the U.S. government over the proposed T-Mobile deal.

The details are quite sketchy, but the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday after the close of the stock market that AT&T and Deutsche Telekom have discussed “pooling network assets” should the Department of Justice put the kibosh on AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile. This would allow AT&T more spectrum under which to build out its LTE network and let T-Mobile share that network without having to spend billions deploying equipment.

It seems a plausible way of addressing government concerns from both the DOJ and the Federal Communications Commission that the combined entity’s local market power would be staggering; consumers would still have the option of T-Mobile’s services with the added bonus of wider access to a nationwide LTE network. But it seems tricky in the implementation and may not dissuade critics who believe AT&T and T-Mobile would still have too much buying power over smartphone makers.

The report said the talks were “not advanced,” so it’s equally plausible this is something AT&T and DT executives kicked around at the bar last night drowning their sorrows over the fallout from the last week, which has put their deal in a very precarious position. Or, as Sprint (NYSE: S) representative John Taylor wryly noted on Twitter, there’s probably more than one banker involved with the deal who really, really wants to get some sort of holiday bonus.