Sprint and T-Mobile are in advanced discussions about merging, and a deal could be announced as soon as this weekend, people briefed on the matter said on Friday.
Such a deal would complete one of the telecommunications industry’s most anticipated transactions and would create the third-largest wireless carrier in the United States, with more than 127 million customers. Sprint and T-Mobile have tried to negotiate a merger twice before, though plans collapsed for different reasons: the first time in 2014 because of opposition from regulators in the Obama administration, the second last year because of disputes over control of the combined company.
Analysts have argued — and Sprint and T-Mobile have acknowledged — that the companies must grow, and gain more resources at their disposal, to better compete against the industry’s leaders, Verizon and AT&T. The two companies are still negotiating the final details, the people briefed on the talks said. They also warned that the talks could be delayed or even fall apart.
Should the deal be completed, just three companies would dominate the United States market for cellphone service. Before that, Sprint and T-Mobile will first need regulatory approval.
Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in 2014, publicly announced then that he would not allow the number of national wireless carriers to shrink to three from four. The Justice Department made similar comments, saying consumers would be harmed without four options for mobile providers.
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