Sprint and T-Mobile might not merge after all.

Well that’s a big surprise.

Back in 2014, we first reported on the potential merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. That first time, it didn’t really go anywhere.

Then in 2017, it looked to everyone like Sprint and T-Mobile, those perennial fourth-place finishers, would merge. And then they didn’t. And then it looked like they would, and they they didn’t. For about a month they danced back and forth, and then the deal died.

Or so we thought.

Again in 2018, those rumors started up again. This time it was a slow boil, and not some flashy announcement. The news continued to percolate for the next year, and for my part I ignored it because after six years of Sprint-related drama, I was burned out. The deal gained steam, though, with DISH coming in to say that they would help out. DISH planned to take over certain assets that the FCC found to be a problem, and it looked for all the world like it would happen this time.

The FCC might put a hold on it now.

According to Android Police, an FCC commissioner has called for a hold to the merger until certain allegations can be ironed out. It’s alleged that Sprint collected tens of millions of dollars from the federal government for its Lifeline program, and misused up to 20% of those funds. Those funds are supposed to be used to provide low-cost cell service to people who need it. It’s not clear what Sprint did with that money but the complaint alleges that they didn’t use it right.

Anyone sensing a pattern?

The funny thing here is that in the last six years my feeling on this has totally shifted. At one point I thought this would be a very bad deal, because Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s technologies are so dissimilar. Now I guess it doesn’t matter. Both companies are going to have to spend a massive amount of money on 5G and that will involve leaving all of their obsolete technology behind no matter what they do.

The real question in the halls of both yellow and pink headquarters is what to do now. T-Mobile and Sprint have different plans for how to implement 5G. I’m not saying they couldn’t be merged but at this point what do you do? If you’re T-Mobile or Sprint do you move ahead with your own 5G plan and hope it will all work out in the end? Or do you wait to see if you can merge and then build a complete 5G network from there? If you do that, you’ll likely lose the race to 5G, which AT&T and Verizon are already deep into winning.

It’s a mess. It’s just a mess.

The sad thing here is that it’s just the latest mess for Sprint, who has been making bad decisions for longer than I can recall. They bought into some very bad 4G technologies in the early days. They bought Nextel which as far as I can see was a total waste for them. Six years ago they themselves were bought by Japanese tech company Softbank who hoped to make a big splash in the USA. That didn’t work out either. It’s almost like Sprint can’t win for losing.

I actually think Sprint’s latest ad campaign is really very good. They got the “can you hear me now” guy to come over there and he makes a good point. Sprint’s coverage is “almost” as good as the other guys so why pay more? Customers aren’t convinced though, and the company continues to shed subscribers in a highly competitive market.

I just wish it would be over.

Honestly folks I’m tired of writing about it and for no other reason than that, I hope whatever is going to happen with Sprint and T-Mobile is going to happen.