If--and it could cost as much as $100 million to change that if to a when--AT&T (NYSE: T) gets its hands on Deutsche Telekom's (XETRA: DTE.DE) T-Mobile USA, it's going to be some kind of bad news for the mobile industry's third player, Sprint (NYSE: S). It could be that Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), fresh off an exhausting effort to acquire NBC Universal, will have to step in and save Sprint and, at the same time, any vestige of a cable mobile wireless business.
Business Insider's Dan Frommer suggests that Sprint will be sold and that "Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) is the most likely buyer." A Verizon acquisition would most probably doom or greatly delay any cable mobile wireless play because it's highly unlikely Verizon would be as amenable to cable as Sprint has been.
Frommer's second option is that Comcast, now free of the NBC Universal machinations, would want to spend its time and resources picking up Sprint. "But so far, Comcast boss Brian Roberts has really cared that much about wireless," Frommer writes, pointing to Comcast's involvement with Sprint in the Pivot joint venture and more recently with Clearwire.
The third buyer, which Frommer considers a stretch, would be Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
One thing seems certain: Sprint--cable's gateway to telephony and mobile wireless--will be hard-pressed to make it with less than 50 million subscribers against AT&T and T-Mobile's combined 129 million and Verizon's 94 million.
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