Facing an uphill battle against regulators likely to rebuff a merger between the nation’s third and fourth largest cell phone carriers, the Japanese billionaire who owns Sprint is making a full-court press.
Speaking at the United States Chamber of Commerce yesterday, Masayoshi Son insisted that the acquisition of T-Mobile by Sprint would ultimately improve America’s wireless broadband network, which he called sluggish and overpriced.
The evening prior, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Son vowed to instigate a “massive price war” among wireless providers if indeed the acquisition were to go through.
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AT&T and Verizon count 110 and 103 million subscribers, respectively. Languishing far behind, Sprint and T-Mobile tally about half as many customers -- 54 million and 47 million, respectively.
Son is the chairman of SoftBank, a Japanese telecommunications conglomerate that purchased a majority stake in Sprint last year for a reported $21.6 billion.
According to The New York Times, his address to the Chamber of Commerce featured patriotic slides touting the American flag, as well as numerous references to his own professional accomplishments.
As the richest man in Japan, Son reportedly noted that, before the dot-com bubble burst, “I was richer than Bill Gates for three days.”
“We can start a small fight but it does not scale,” Son said of Sprint’s relatively diminutive reach. “We need to have a real fight -- a long and deep and heavy fight. And for that we need scale.”
But scale hasn’t stopped T-Mobile from provoking some skirmishes of its own. After dubbing itself the "un-carrier," the company offered in January to pay the early-termination fees of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint customers who quit their contracts to join the T-Mobile network.
This isn’t the first time that a competing carrier has made a bid to snap up T-Mobile. In 2011, AT&T was blocked from taking over the company by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.
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- Masayoshi Son