SoftBank Seeks More Discussion on Competition in U.S. Market

Jun 17, 2014 5:36 am ET

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- SoftBank Corp., the wireless carrier led by Masayoshi Son, wants more discussion on competition in the U.S. as it weighs a bid for T-Mobile US Inc. to create a larger third-ranked mobile operator.

Sprint Corp., controlled by SoftBank, needs scale to improve services, the billionaire told reporters in Tokyo today. Son is seeking to bulk up Sprint to provide a stronger competitor to Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. amid consolidation in the communications industry.

Since going to court to block AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile in 2011, regulators have insisted they want to preserve four competitors in the U.S. market, where Sprint and T-Mobile are No. 3 and No. 4. Son is preparing to move as soon as next month in the face of those warnings, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

“If the big players are getting bigger and we are left out, the scale difference would be even bigger,” said Son, who declined to comment on any specific interest in T-Mobile. “Is that a good thing for American consumers or not? It’s something that many people have to discuss.”

The Federal Communications Commission looks at the public interest when reviewing acquisitions, and the Justice Department considers the potential antitrust effects.

AT&T last month announced a $48.5 billion bid to buy satellite-television company DirecTV. Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company, said in February it would spend $45.2 billion to acquire its largest national competitor, New York- based Time Warner Cable Inc.

Telecom Convergence

Son has argued that as technology converges, a new market for Internet services is emerging in which AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are the three giants. He views a combined Sprint and T- Mobile as a counterweight, able to offer wireless high-speed Internet to compete with phone and cable modems.

Son was joined in Tokyo by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“I think his message has been received, it’s going to be a difficult issue and he is working it, but it’s not as if he hasn’t presented his case in Washington,” Powell said.