“Sprint doesn’t change overnight because of SoftBank — it’s still Sprint,” he said. “Sprint transforms overnight with Dish.”
Susan P. Crawford, a law professor at Cardozo School of Law who served as special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy, said there were pros and cons to a merger with Dish Networks. A combination with Dish Networks would pose more of a threat to AT&T and Verizon, which account for two-thirds of American wireless subscribers, than a partnership with SoftBank, she said.
But it would also weaken T-Mobile USA, the No. 4 carrier, which has been offering cheaper phone plans to consumers, like its latest contract-free phone plans.
“Right now, we have two giants and two also-rans, and now you’re getting potentially three giants dividing up the American marketplace, with T-Mobile lagging far behind,” she said of the potential Dish-Sprint merger.
It is unclear whether a Dish takeover would change much about Sprint’s wireless service. Chetan Sharma, an independent telecom analyst who is a consultant for carriers, said that the only obvious change for consumers would be at a marketing level, not a technology level. While the bills may be consolidated, it would not be easy to share the benefits of a high-speed Internet connection at home with wireless networks that connect to a phone outside, he said.
Mr. Sharma said that a Sprint merger with SoftBank would most likely be better for consumers than one with Dish. The two carriers combined would have more buying power to negotiate with manufacturers like Apple or Samsung to buy large quantities of phones at lower prices.
Because the phones would be cheaper for Sprint, the carrier could charge customers less for access its network to make up for the costs of the phones, he said.
Amid the fight for Sprint is a tug of war for Clearwire, another wireless operator of which Sprint is the majority owner. Sprint has signaled interest in taking over the company entirely with the cash infusion from SoftBank, but Dish in January made an unsolicited bid of $2.2 billion for a portion of the company.
And on the heels of Monday’s news, Verizon offered $1.5 billion to buy spectrum from Clearwire, according to a person briefed on the company’s plans, who was not authorized to speak publicly because the plans were not yet official.
If Dish Networks succeeded in a takeover of Sprint, it would be in a position to acquire Clearwire more quickly than Sprint/SoftBank, because a foreign company that tries to buy more than 25 percent of a telecom company must undergo regulatory review.
Barclays is advising Dish Network on its proposed bid. Deutsche Bank, the Raine Group and Mizuho Securities are advising SoftBank. Citigroup, Rothschild and UBS are advising Sprint Nextel.