Dish Network Corp (Nasdaq:DISH) is offering $25.5 billion for Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) in a bid that could put an end to an ongoing effort by Softbank Corp (TYO:9984) to acquire the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S.

"Sprint is in play," Dish Chairman Charles Ergen told the Wall Street Journal. "We think we've made an offer that's much more compelling than the Softbank transaction."

Dish, based in Englewood, Colo., was expected to make a formal announcement on Monday.  The offer would be more straightforward than the one proposed in October by Softbank and Sprint, in which the Japanese telecom and Internet operator would acquire 70 percent of the Overland Park, Kan.-based wireless carrier.  

Ergen’s offer is an attempt to diversify Dish, a satellite pay-television provider, into the lucrative world of wireless communications. The company won regulators’ approval last year to start offering mobile-phone services, but it lacks the network infrastructure that Sprint has. With it, Dish could offer high-speed Internet to users inside and outside of the home using Sprint’s network of cellular towers.

S&P Capital IQ said the merged companies would carry $36 billion in debt. The Journal said that Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) is the adviser in the deal, which has yet to be formalized.