Regulatory hurdles and disputes over control over a united organization halted earlier merger discussions. The current negotiations between Sprint and T-Mobile are not complete, explained the people informed on this subject, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because the business was confidential. The timing could change, or the talks might break apart, they warned.
A merger would fulfill a long-frustrated dream of Sprint's majority owner Softbank of Japan. When SoftBank took control of the US carrier in 201
However, in two rounds of talks, in 2014 and last fall, Mr. Son was unable to conclude a deal with T-Mobile's majority shareholder, Deutsche Telekom.
The stake is big for both sides, but especially for Mr. Son. Sprint has lost billions of dollars and millions of subscribers while he has taken on debt since SoftBank took over. In contrast, backed by a hugely popular unlimited data plan and an aggressive marketing campaign, T-Mobile leapt beyond its beleaguered rival and ranked third in the US wireless rankings.
Mr. Son and SoftBank have weighted several potential – albeit not plausible – combinations for the telecom, including flirting with a charter deal. But the goal has always been to bring together the country's third and fourth largest carriers.
"This deal is likely to be more important for Sprint than T-Mobile," said Amy Yong, research analyst at Macquarie Capital.  This time, Mr. Son and Deutsche Telekom seem closer to ironing out a combined airline control agreement, people said, who were briefed on the matter. Deutsche Telekom would own about 42 percent of the new company, but retain the majority of their voting rights, people said.
The boards of Sprint and T-Mobile did not want to comment.
Even if an agreement is reached, the two sides remain under review by the regulators.
A merger would have to be reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission, which would decide whether the deal would create too much concentration in the wireless industry and whether it would be in the best interests of the public.
Deals of this magnitude also Regulatory Reviews by Antitrust Agencies to the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission
Tom Foller, 2014 FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, announced that he did not reduce the number of national mobile operators to three out of four will. The Department of Justice said similar comments at the time and said consumers would be harmed without four options for mobile operators.
But the regulatory picture has become dimmer under the Trump administration. SoftBank senior executives met with senior members of the administration last year to review potential sprint business, while Mr. Son courted President Trump's promise to invest $ 50 billion in US companies.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai criticized the previous government's strict attitude to competition in the wireless industry.
"I do not believe a regulator recognizing the legal humility and intellectual honesty of the economy can say whether three or four or five are the optimal number," Mr Pai said in a 2017 interview with Recode and related the number of carriers operating in the US.
The Department of Justice, whose cartel department is headed by Makan Delrahim, was hard to predict, analysts said. Mr. Delrahim complains of blocking AT & T's purchase of Time Warner, saying that the deal would hurt competition and lead to higher consumer prices.
Officials of the F.C.C. The Ministry of Justice declined to comment.
Consumer groups could protest the deal. Sprint and T-Mobile are considered an important alternative to the largest carriers and offer unlimited data rates, while others have limited them. Sprint and T-Mobile were also the first carriers to allow people to unlock their phones.
These have been widely seen as pro-consumer moves, and T-Mobile in particular has shown little need to merge with Sprint, said Gigi Sohn, a former senior FCC advisor
"T-Mobile's pricing and marketing efforts have moved AT & T and Verizon to change their own pricing, data plans and consumer marketing efforts," she said.
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