Will U.S. Mobile Price War Survive a Sprint Acquisition of T-Mobile US?

Some observers now are worried about a "price war" in the U.S. mobile industry, with T-Mobile US launching cost of service attacks that AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have responded to in different ways. 

All the carriers have matched T-Mobile US no-contract plans to some extent, and all have embraced forms of "faster device upgrade" programs.

Given the generally robust revenue growth Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility have seen in recent years, some equity analysts naturally fear a protracted price war will harm earnings for Verizon and AT&T, even if T-Mobile US currently seems to be benefiting. 

What SoftBank will do at Sprint is the big unknown. Virtually all observers have expected that Sprint would launch its own attack on the U.S. market, presumably involving an assault on prevailing pricing.

But with T-Mobile US now doing the attacking, with success, the room for SoftBank to do so is made more difficult. Some might argue that is why there is talk about an acquisition bid by Sprint for T-Mobile US. 

Certainly, Deutsche Telekom wants to sell T-Mobile US entirely. So a willing seller is likely to attract motivated buyers. But regulation and antitrust concerns are likely to loom large. U.S. antitrust authorities have made clear a preference for four suppliers in the market, not just three. 

So some think a clever bid would structure the acquisition in a way that also enables Dish Network to enter the market as a new provider, keeping the market at four national providers. 

SoftBank and Sprint likely would have to take other steps to persuade regulators that the T-Mobile US assault also would continue. 

So in any outcome, even if analysts think the only way to stop a ruinous price war is for Sprint to acquire T-Mobile US, the price war is unlikely to abate. 


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