Media speculation this week hints at a major shakeup in the US mobile market, with Sprint linked to an acquisition by fixed-line operator CenturyLink amid a mooted merger between wholesale mobile operators Clearwire and LightSquared. The Sprint/CenturyLink deal has been discussed in a report from Bloomberg, which claims analysts believe CenturyLink is the most likely buyer for Sprint, should Sprint end up being acquired following the completion of AT&T’s planned US$39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA. Last week Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a Congressional hearing focused on the AT&T/T-Mobile deal that the merger would pressure his much smaller company to sell and result in a market duopoly. CenturyLink is deemed a likely buyer as it is the biggest company in telecommunications without a wireless unit.
Meanwhile AT&T’s head of enterprise business, John Stankey, has said that there’s not enough room in the US market for wholesale WiMAX operator Clearwire and wholesale LTE startup operator LightSquared. Stankey claims they’d be better off consolidating. “We have two people staking out a wholesale play in the market. It’s hard in economic theory and it’s hard in past practice in telecommunications to ever find a market where two wholesale players ever competed effectively,” he told Reuters. Although both wholesale operators currently have business models dependent on competing technology, WiMAX operator Clearwire is testing LTE and may move to the more popular mobile technology over time.