The new network would have 83.7 million subscribers.
Some rumors are like the Energizer Bunny. They just keep going and going and going, no matter how many times they prove untrue or or ill-timed. Think back to 2009. Android lovers are making due with the G1, the Palm Pre actually looks like a viable iPhone rival, and netbooks are all the rage. Late in the year, rumors pop up that Deutsche Telekom is considering selling T-Mobile. Maybe even to Sprint.
Well those same rumors are back and more virulent than ever, thanks to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek. The infamous "people with knowledge of the matter" report that Sprint Nextel and DT are talking again about the sale of T-Mobile. Those talks were described as "on and off" and Bloomberg noted that "a deal may not be reached", a safety valve that could extend the lifetime of this rumor well into next year.
T-Mobile bled 318,000 postpaid subscribers in Q4. A "merged" Sprint-Mobile network would include some 83.7 million customers. That is still a far cry from Verizon's 94.1 million or AT&T's 95.5 million, but it would bring Sprint within spitting distance of these two giants.
Sprint has proved they are capable of rescuing a carrier from the brink of irrelevancy. After all, that's what they've done over the last two years. Even as recently as April of 2010 the company was still sloughing off subscribers. But Sprint ended Q4 with its first postpaid subscriber addition since 2006.
So Sprint is finally strong enough to consider a move like this. And there are very clear benefits to both Deutsche Telekom and America's 3rd largest carrier. But there are also substantial technological hurdles to jump. For one thing, Sprint uses iDEN and CDMA while T-Mobile uses UMTS and HSPA+. It seems like putting everything together would be a nightmare from a logistical standpoint. But it does open the door for certain unique offerings.
A merged Sprint-Mo could launch a dual-HSPA+ WiMAX phone that took advantage of the best "4G" data connection in the area. Any dual-phone like this would be capable of working in more places worldwide and in providing the customer with a superior connection in many areas. Sprint could stand to learn a thing or two from T-Mo's award-winning customer service department as well. This rumor is still way up in the air until we hear a plausible way to resolve the differences in technology...but the fact that it keeps popping up, year after year, may be evidence of its veracity.