Sprint chairman to meet with top U.S. telecom regulator Monday

WASHINGTON Mon Feb 3, 2014 10:30am EST

WASHINGTON Feb 3 (Reuters) - Sprint Corp Chairman Masayoshi Son is slated to meet with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday, an FCC official said, as the No. 3 U.S. wireless provider mulls a potential bid for smaller rival T-Mobile US Inc.

Son's Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp acquired Sprint last year and has recently been in talks to acquire T-Mobile US, sources have told Reuters.

FCC chiefs routinely meet with industry executives in sessions that often cover a wide range of topics. Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse was also scheduled to attend Monday's meeting, the FCC official said, speaking anonymously because the FCC chairman's schedule is not public.

Son in recent weeks has been pushing for more consolidation in a U.S. wireless market dominated by four major providers: Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Sprint has been interested in combining with T-Mobile for years and top executives from both companies have argued that consolidation was necessary in the U.S. wireless market, as cooperation in infrastructure and equipment orders would create a stronger rival against the biggest players, Verizon and AT&T.

However, the deal would face strong headwinds in getting regulators' approval at the Justice Department and the FCC.

U.S. antitrust chief, William Baer, last week reiterated his skepticism toward any mergers between any of the two top four wireless phone companies.

Baer and Wheeler have both hailed the 2011 rejection of a merger between AT&T and T-Mobile as yielding a more competitive market that is better for consumers.

AT&T over the weekend announced a plan to cut prices on its large shared data plans in the latest sign that the rivalry between the top U.S. cellular players may be triggering increased discounting.

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