Dish and T-Mobile said to be in early-stage merger talks

The two companies have hammered out leadership details of the combined company but not financial particulars, sources tell the Wall Street Journal.

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T-Mobile CEO John Legere would serve as CEO of the combined company, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sarah Tew/CNET

After years of talk that Dish Network and T-Mobile might merge, a tie-up between the two might be near.

The satellite TV provider is in early-stage talks to merge with the wireless provider, according to a report Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal, the latest in a wave of consolidation involving communications companies. The combined company would install Dish CEO Charlie Ergen as its chairman, while T-Mobile CEO John Legere would be appointed the combined company's chief executive, people described as familiar with the deal told the Journal.

A deal between the No. 2 satellite TV provider and No. 4 wireless provider would combine T-Mobile's 39 million customers with Dish's 13.8 million satellite TV customers and 591,000 Internet subscribers.

However, key details of the agreement remain to be hammered out, including purchase price and the mix of cash and stock that would finance the deal, the Journal said, adding that talks could still dissolve without reaching an agreement.

If a deal between the two is completed, it would be the latest mega-merger of television and communications giants. T-Mobile rival AT&T is in the process of acquiring Dish rival DirecTV in a deal worth $48.5 billion, while Charter Communications has announced $66 billion in deals to merge with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

This isn't the first time Dish has shown interest in the wireless industry; in 2013, Dish made a bid to acquire Sprint but lost to Softbank, which ended up buying the company for $21.6 billion.

That interest was reciprocated by Legere in 2013 when he said he would be open to a potential tie-up with Dish. Legere said he was interested in some of the capabilities and spectrum that T-Mobile would offer.

"When I look at the medium to long term, I'm intrigued by Dish's vision," Legere told CNET at the time.

Talk of a merger between the two companies resurfaced in January after Dish walked away as the second-highest bidder in the Federal Communications Commission's most recent auction of spectrum, spending $13.3 billion on the radio frequencies used to transmit wireless data. Dish has been acquiring wireless spectrum in other deals and is thought to be poised to build a wireless network of its own that could rival those of the major cellular operators.

In addition to acquisitions, some have speculated Dish may partner with existing wireless operators in a network-sharing arrangement. Legere said in February that he isn't sure what Dish's plan is, but whatever the company decides to do, whether it's an acquisition or a partnership, that his company is game.

"We like what they're doing," Legere said in an interview. "It makes sense to have a discussion."

Dish and T-Mobile representatives declined to comment on the Journal's report.