By Julian Hattem - 08/06/14 08:51 AM EDT
Sprint has abandoned its bid to buy T-Mobile and combine the third and fourth largest wireless companies in the U.S., according to multiple reports.
Officials told various news outlets that the decision to abandon the estimated $32 billion deal came in reaction to a series of stiff regulatory hurdles and was finalized at a board meeting on Tuesday.
A Sprint spokesman would not comment on the matter to The Hill.
The long-expected bid has always faced an uphill battle. Since the Obama administration blocked AT&T's $39 billion effort to buy T-Mobile in 2011, regulators have asserted that the wireless market operates best when there are four major players.
Confirming suspicions that the FCC would have opposed the merger, commission Chairman Tom Wheeler praised Sprint’s decision to back off on Tuesday.
“Four national wireless providers is good for American consumers,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Sprint now has an opportunity to focus their efforts on robust competition.”
With Verizon and AT&T leading their smaller competitors, however, Sprint had hoped that a merger with T-Mobile would help the company compete. Together, the two firms control less than one-third of the U.S. wireless market.
Though the deal had not been formally proposed, Sprint had made a concerted public relations blitz in Washington in recent weeks. Sprint's parent company, Softbank, had beefed up its lobbying and blanketed Washington metro stations with advertisements.
The deal was expected to be the third major media merger of the year, after Comcast had announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable and AT&T said it wanted to buy DirecTV. The string of deals had evoked skepticism in Congress, where some have expressed concern that the market was becoming dominated by a few giant companies.
In addition to deciding not to pursue a merger with T-Mobile, Sprint's board also reportedly decided to replace its current chief executive, Daniel Hesse, with Brightstar founder Marcelo Claure.
The future for T-Mobile is much less clear.
French telecommunications company Iliad has made a $15 billion offer for a controlling interest in the company, and Dish Network has also indicated an interest in pursuing the company if the Sprint deal fell through.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Sprint decision's to abandon the merger, has reported that T-Mobile is unlikely to consider the Iliad offer unless the terms change.