The Dish 'Fix' For The T-Mobile Merger Is Looking More And More Like A Ridiculous Mess
from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
Remember when the FCC rubber stamped the Sprint T-Mobile merger without looking at the facts? Remember when a long line of economists and experts noted the merger would likely erode competition, raise rates, and kill jobs — and both U.S. regulators and the court system completely ignored them? And remember when the FCC and DOJ both cobbled together a “fix” to this problem by trying to throw some spectrum at Dish Network, a proposal we noted was likely to fail?
Well guess what. Not only has the merger resulted in 5,000 layoffs and counting (something T-Mobile repeatedly promised regulators would never happen), the Dish “fix” proposed by the DOJ and FCC is looking more and more like a hot mess. Dish has increasingly been complaining that before the ink on the agreement was even dry, T-Mobile was behaving a lot like AT&T and Verizon. The issue is that T-Mobile is shuttering its older and slower CDMA network, which Dish hoped to lean on as it got its full, broader 5G network up and running:
“This is the same company that goes on Twitter and talks about dumb and dumber and how they?re for everybody, they love everybody and they?re for the consumer. They went to the Public Utility Commission in California under oath and said that it would be three years before they turned CDMA off. They forgot about that. Once they got their merger done, they look like every other big company,? Ergen said.
?They?ve become the Grinch,? he said. As the Dr. Seuss story goes, the Grinch had a tiny heart and stole all the kids? toys. In Ergen?s analogy, T-Mobile is sort of stealing phones out of consumers? hands since they won?t work anymore.
Sounds like the strong foundation for a lasting relationship, yeah?
Ideally, the agreement offloaded T-Mobile’s Boost prepaid brand and some spectrum to Dish Network in the hopes it would cobble together a replacement fourth wireless carrier over a period of seven years. But there were always ample problems with that idea that suggested it was more regulatory theater than practical solution for the market problems created by the merger.
One, even by T-Mobile’s admission Dish has a long history of hoarding wireless spectrum and making empty promises in wireless. Two, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile had absolutely every incentive in the world to prevent the creation of a viable, fourth wireless competitor. Three, regulators who take great pride in being “hands off” were never going to have the competency and willingness to nanny such a convoluted deal toward completion.
Dish continues to bleed satellite TV subscribers at an alarming rate, so it surely wants a shift to wireless to work out. But it’s just not clear that the company has the competence to pull it off, especially when the consolation prize for failing is likely just a wrist slap by the FCC and a huge cash pay out should it sell off its mammoth spectrum hoard. Meanwhile, as we’ve seen in Canada, Ireland, and Germany, the reduction of competitors from four to three will inevitably result in higher mobile data prices for U.S. consumers, something the remaining three U.S. carriers will lobby for heavily to ensure never changes.