Sprint, Comcast and Charter are once again talking wireless partnership, according to several reports, including the Wall Street Journal. The talks have put a long rumored tie up between Sprint and T-Mobile on hold for now.
The idea of Sprint and the cable industry partnering in one form or another has long been debated in the industry. They did indeed connect on the ill-fated Pivot wireless partnership that ended almost a decade ago. But there’s also been on again, off again rumors that the cable industry would eventually acquire Sprint.
The latest iteration of a partnership does not involve an outright acquisition, according to the WSJ report, although that is still a possibility. What’s more likely is a minority investment by Comcast and Charter in Sprint, with a deal that allows them to use the Sprint network for their own branded mobile offering.
Xfinity Mobile has already launched, and Charter is expected to offer their version of a wireless product next year. Comcast currently leverages a Verizon MVNO deal, which came as a result of Verizon buying spectrum from the cable industry back in 2011. They combine that Verizon network access with their own Wi-Fi network to create their own branded wireless offering. Charter is expected to follow the same blueprint.
Adding Sprint to the equation would strengthen these cable wireless efforts. It’s added capacity and a hedge against Verizon, should that partnership not work out over the long term. Comcast and Charter are reportedly looking for better terms with Sprint, than what they currently have with Verizon. Both Comcast and Charter entered into an agreement recently that says they will work together exclusively on any large scale wireless deal.
For Sprint, the deal could provide some much needed cash that would help with their ongoing network enhancements, and help prepare them for the move to 5G. According to the reports, there is an exclusive two-month negotiation window between the three.
The outcome could include a wide ranging MVNO deal, an equity investment by the two cable companies, or a combination of the two. An outright acquisition is unlikely, but never say never. Short of an outright acquisition, it’s believed that the outcome would not prevent a T-Mobile – Sprint merger at some point in the future. It may even strengthen that possibility.