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Shares of Sprint Nextel Corp. sank more than 6 percent on news of the deal. There has been speculation that the No. 3 cellphone company would work out some kind of deal with T-Mobile USA.

Shares of Dish Network Corp., the satellite company, also sank on the news, dropping almost 5 percent. The company has spectrum rights that would be valuable to phone companies, but says it will use the rights to build its own network.