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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

When T-Mobile US and Sprint first announced their $26 billion merger in early 2018, the endgame was to reduce the country's number of major mobile carriers from four to three ⁠— thus letting the new partners better compete with AT&T and Verizon. But that ship appears to have sailed.

The state of play: Multiple reports are saying that the Justice Department is insisting on the maintenance of four majors, despite T-Mobile CEO John Legere's still-available tweet about how DOJ doesn't believe the deal needs any restructuring. Enter Dish, which currently is a satellite TV company without any mobile telecom offering.

  • But it does have a bunch of spectrum, which makes it one of a few viable partners to get this thing over the finish line.
  • The idea is that T-Mobile/Sprint would make divestitures to ensure Dish could become the fabled fourth player — albeit possibly more as a reseller on the existing network, rather than a new network itself.

The big picture: It's an elegant solution, but not without its own challenges.

  • The biggest obstacle may be Dish chairman and former CEO Charlie Ergen, who holds nearly a 37% stake in the company and is known to be a very tough negotiator. What Ergen wants may not ultimately be palatable to T-Mobile, and he appears to have most of the leverage.
  • Plus, it's possible that DOJ won't like the final compromise, assuming there is one.
  • Sprint owner SoftBank recently hired another lobbyist to work on the transaction, per Axios' David McCabe.

The bottom line: When announced, this deal was presented as a much easier regulatory pass than was AT&T-Time Warner, even though it's a very vertical merger. It was wishful thinking.

Go deeper: Sprint's stock rallies again as merger hopes rise

Go deeper

Trial for ex-officers charged with abetting Floyd murder delayed until 2022

The memorial in George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 21. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The trial for three former Minneapolis police officers charged by state prosecutors with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd has been moved to March 7, 2022, AP reports.

Why it matters: Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said he wanted to move the date from Aug. 23 to accommodate a new federal case against the officers and Derek Chauvin, who has already been convicted on state charges for Floyd's murder.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Colonial pipeline hack: Key takeaways from Biden's first energy crisis

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Restoration of the Colonial Pipeline, the huge East Coast gasoline artery, is the beginning of the end of a crisis that prompted a White House logistical and political scramble.

Catch up fast: Late Wednesday afternoon, Colonial began a restart of the 5,500-mile line that shut down nearly a week ago after a ransomware attack.

New Jan. 6 body camera footage shows Trump supporters attacking officer

New body camera footage obtained by CNN shows the moment a DC police officer was brutally attacked by Trump supporters during the Capitol Hill insurrection.

Driving the news: The release of video comes a day after Republican members of Congress sought to downplay the Jan. 6 events, with some lawmakers calling the rioters "peaceful patriots" and comparing them to tourists.