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Softbank and T-Mobile reportedly trying again for merger

To do that, Softbank would be willing to give up control of Sprint, the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the US, according to a Reuters report.

Sprint and T-Mobile, led by CEO John Legere, are reportedly eying a merger again.
James Martin/CNET

T-Mobile and Sprint, respectively the third and fourth largest wireless carriers in the country, are reportedly again trying to join forces.

Sprint, owned by the Japanese company Softbank, and T-Mobile, owned by German company Deutsche Telekom, are trying to clinch a merger. To do that, Softbank is willing to give up control of Sprint to T-Mobile, according to a report Friday by Reuters.

But Softbank and and Deutsche Telekom haven't had discussions yet because the companies aren't legally allowed to talk to each other during an auction of airwaves going on right now, in which the FCC has set aside a swath of spectrum for bidding specifically for smaller players. Once the auction ends in April, the two sides are expected to begin negotiations, according to the report.

The tie-up would be notable because neither Sprint nor T-Mobile has been able to crack the top two spots in the market, held now by Verizon and AT&T.

Softbank, Sprint and Deutsche Telekom did not immediately respond to requests for comment. T-Mobile declined to comment, citing those quiet period rules.

This is the second time Softbank has tried to acquire T-Mobile. The company made the effort in 2014, but ditched it after opposition from US antitrust regulators. The deal would still attract antitrust scrutiny, according to the Reuters report. But one reason for the renewed interest could be the new Trump administration and its so-far populist comments around antitrust, according to legal experts interviewed by Reuters in another report.