Sprint Still Pushing for a T-Mobile Merger

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Japan's Softbank hasn't given up on the idea of some sort of merger of the third-largest U.S. cellular carrier Sprint (S) and the country's No. 4, T-Mobile (TMUS).

In a new interview with PBS's Charlie Rose, Softbank President Masayoshi Son, who also is the chairman of Sprint, said Sprint is still very interested in buying T-Mobile.

Son told Rose in no uncertain terms that he wants a T-Mobile deal so he can compete with the big guys -- Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) -- and so the new company can pressure everyone to lower the high monthly service fees U.S. consumers are currently being charged.

Sprint's stock was gaining more than 1.5% to $8.85 and T-Mobile was up more than 1.7% to $31.50 in premarket trading on Tuesday.

Son is in Washington this week to meet with regulators and Federal Communication Commission officials. He wants to tell them, in person, about Softbank's plans for Sprint, T-Mobile and the current as well as future landscape of the U.S. marketplace. He has a lot of convincing to do.

A possible merger of the two companies has already been criticized by those same regulators and by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. According to those with knowledge of the talks, Wheeler, who met with Son and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse last month, expressed some skepticism about any possible merger of the two companies.

Officials are reportedly worried that narrowing cellular carrier choices from four major players to three will turn out to be a bad deal for consumers. Bu, Son is back to argue that a merged company would be better able to compete with Verizon and AT&T than either Sprint or T-Mobile can do separately.

Son also plans to push his idea that a new Sprint/T-Mobile will be able to provide competition to this country's broadband industry.

He will argue that the newly combined company's infrastructure and wireless reach could prove to be an alternative to existing cable, satellite and even fiber services. Most areas in the United States are currently served only by one or possibly two broadband companies. The new Sprint/T-Mobile would add hogh-speed wireless service delivery to the mix.

Son will make his plans known in a speech Tuesday in Washington to wireless industry leaders but will probably not mention his company's desire to merge with T-Mobile. Reuters reported a senior Softbank executive believes any official "moves toward pursuing a deal were now on hold."

In the past year, T-Mobile has been giving all of its competitors -- including Sprint -- a hard time with its recent "UnCarrier" pricing campaign. T-Mobile has been gaining market share too.

A merger would immediately end that situation.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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