Dark clouds are already forming over a proposed Sprint/T-Mo tie-up

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Both The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported late last night that executives from Sprint are already experiencing some push-back from federal regulators reluctant about any merger between the nation’s third- and fourth-largest carriers. Bloomberg echoed the Journal’s report that Sprint board members Masayoshi Son and Dan Hesse met with officials from the Department of Justice who viewed a possible acquisition of T-Mobile “with skepticism,” indicating the players involved would have extreme difficulty gaining approval.

Sprint reportedly has been assured it could secure the $31 billion in financing necessary to consummate the deal, so the approval of regulators would be the only huge hurdle. But approval often hinges on the involved carriers divesting themselves of spectrum to help smaller players, and I can’t figure out which rival carrier could be the beneficiary there — both AT&T and Verizon are too large to be granted those airwaves, and no other nationwide operator exists. I suppose regulators might find a way to transfer some spectrum to Dish Network, but Dish is still a long way from turning on a mobile network of its own. I’ll be very surprised if Sprint and T-Mo can find a way to make any deal happen this year — or any time in the near future.

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