Why Doesn’t Dish Just Buy T-Mobile?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

After years of trying, T-Mobile is finally merging with Sprint thanks to approval from President Trump’s Justice Department. But something about this perplexes me. I thought about it again while reading Matt Yglesias’s piece about the merger over at Vox, and—well, I’ll just let him tell the story:

The reason that allowing the United States to go from four mobile phone providers to three providers is okay, according to the Justice Department, is that they have a plan to create a fourth competitor. Specifically, Dish, the satellite television company — which already owns the minor player Boost Mobile — is also going to acquire Sprint’s prepaid subsidiary Virgin Mobile. What’s more, the new merged T-Mobile has committed to giving Dish seven years’ worth of access to its infrastructure to resell. That means that while there will be only three companies with a national mobile phone infrastructure, there will be four sellers of that infrastructure. Boost, meanwhile, is supposed to spend that seven-year window building out its own infrastructure. So ultimately, there will be four players after all and everything will be okay.

As Yglesias says, this is an odd bankshot. If it’s important to have four carriers, why not just disapprove the merger?

But it’s odd in another way. If Dish wants to be the fourth carrier, why don’t they just buy T-Mobile (or Sprint) outright instead of taking seven years to build out their own infrastructure? That would get Dish what they want and it would keep four solid carriers around right from the start.

So why isn’t Dish buying T-Mobile? They’ve been part of the rumor mill forever, and it seems like it makes sense. What am I missing?

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate