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If Dish really wants into wireless, it needs to move on T-Mobile

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Deutsche Telekom says it’s still waiting for an acceptable bid for T-Mobile in the wake of Sprint’s sudden realization this week that a tie-up between the third- and fourth-largest U.S. carriers simply couldn’t gain approval from federal regulators. But I’m sure the phones in DT’s German headquarters are still ringing regularly considering the number of possible suitors: Iliad is reportedly preparing to up its bid for T-Mobile, Mexican billionaire (and longtime wireless executive) Carlos Slim is rumored to be eyeing the carrier, and Dish Mobile continues to lurk on the sidelines as it contemplates entering the market.

Deutshe Telekom is sitting in the catbird seat — its U.S. operator has had a remarkable run over the last year and is now doing so well that DT is shifting its investment focus to its home turf. But DT has long wanted out of the U.S. market, and there’s little indication that has changed even with T-Mo’s recent success.

I’ve long thought that Dish is the best fit for T-Mobile, and the time finally may be right for a tie-up between the two companies. While T-Mobile’s momentum is impressive, it will need much more spectrum to continue to expand its nationwide LTE network. Dish has been planning to use its AWS-4 spectrum as well as its coveted 700 MHz airwaves to deploy LTE services, and both companies plan to participate in the FCC’s auction of low-band spectrum slated for 2015. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen maintains that it’s relatively unlikely that his company will either launch service on its own or sell the spectrum off and abandon its wireless plans. Ergen has also said it would be a “personal failure” if his company failed to get into the wireless market. He should move now to pick up T-Mobile to take on AT&T and Verizon at next year’s auction.