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Sprint was close to buying Metro PCS, says report

Agreement had been endorsed by Sprint CEO Dan Hesse but was nixed by board just hours before it was a done deal, reports CNBC.

Dan Hesse at Sprint headquarters in July 2011. Credit: Kent German/CNET

Sprint was just hours away from acquiring Metro PCS in an $8 billion deal when Sprint's board nixed the agreement, CNBC is reporting.

Citing unnamed sources, CNBC's David Faber said the two companies had been working on the plan for months and that a deal was expected to be announced after Sprint's board met late Wednesday. Metro PCS shareholders would have received Sprint shares and some cash, amounting to ownership of about a third of the combined company, Faber said.

It's not clear why the board demurred, Faber said, adding that Sprint CEO Dan Hesse had endorsed the plan and that regulatory concerns were apparently not the reason.

A deal would have brought Sprint more spectrum, along with Metro PCS' 9.3 million subscribers. However, as The Verge's Chris Ziegler points out, much of MetroPCS's spectrum is in the AWS band, which Sprint doesn't currently use--making integration that much trickier.

Sprint plans to launch its 4G LTE service, part of its Network Vision upgrade plan, in 10 markets by the first half of the year. It's playing catch-up with Verizon Wireless and AT&T, which are well under way with their own LTE deployments.

Hesse said in January that Sprint has enough spectrum by itself to last through 2014, but that with network-building partner Clearwire's spectrum, the company could last until 2016, or longer if Clearwire gets additional funding to expand beyond its existing territory. Clearwire, however, has been having funding troubles recently.