T-Mobile's John Legere and Sprint's Marcelo Claure told CNN's Richard Quest on Monday that the merger of the two companies would make it easier for them to build out a national, high-speed 5G network before their rivals Verizon and AT&T do.
"The country needs 5G," Claure said. He said the United States can't fall further behind China and South Korea, which are ahead in deploying 5G technology.
Legere stressed that the deal won't harm consumers because T-Mobile has a reputation for offering low-cost plans. And he said the combined company plans to invest $40 billion to build out its 5G network, which should create thousands of jobs.
"Prices are going down and jobs are going up," Legere said.
Claure told Quest that he had the "simple realization that both companies needed each other" in order to build a 5G network. And Legere added that Claure called him to jump-start merger talks between the two, which have been on and off for several years.
During that time, the two CEOs have often taken potshots at each other on Twitter, part of the intense competition for wireless subscribers. But Legere and Claure now seem more comfortable jabbing rivals AT&T and Verizon instead.
Legere poked fun at Verizon's purchases of AOL and Yahoo, which it combined into a subsidiary it calls Oath. Verizon said in its most recent earnings report that revenue for Oath fell in the first quarter from last year's fourth quarter because of lower ad spending.
"That really worked out, hasn't it?" Legere cracked, adding that T-Mobile and Sprint "don't feel the need to own and curate the content of what you watch."
Legere argued "that regulatory approval prospects have never been better" — which seems like a curious thing to say considering that the Trump administration has sued to block AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.
But Legere said the time is right for a deal because there's much more competition in the wireless world these days. He noted that cable giants Comcast and Charter are now competing for the same customers as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
"The industry we work in is changing," Legere said.
Quest's full interview with Legere and Claure from the New York Stock Exchange will air on the Quest Express and Quest Means Business shows on CNNi later Monday.