Sprint apparently plans to walk away from a potential merger with T-Mobile, but that's only the beginning of changes being made behind-the-scenes this week at the nation's third largest carrier.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that Sprint's board of directors appears to have thrown their collective hands in the air over a planned acquisition of rival T-Mobile US, leaving the Japanese-owned carrier to once again fend for itself against Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

Although no formal announcement of the failed merger has yet to be made, the scrapped $32 billion deal was expected to face the same kind of regulatory scrutiny AT&T experienced in late 2011.

That deal led T-Mobile US to come back fighting hard that ever with an ongoing series of consumer-friendly "Uncarrier" initiatives, changes larger competitor Sprint have largely failed at implementing since last year's acquisition by Japanese carrier SoftBank.

Fresh blood

In a separate report this morning, The Wall Street Journal also confirmed rumors that Sprint Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse would be replaced by Marcelo Claure, the founder of international mobile phone distributor Brightstar.

The executive shuffle, which takes place next Monday, appears to be only the beginning of shakeups taking place at Sprint in the wake of the abandoned merger, which leaves the third-placed US carrier more vulnerable than ever as T-Mobile continues to snatch customers from the competition.

"While we continue to believe industry consolidation will enhance competitiveness and benefit customers, our focus moving forward will be on making Sprint the most successful carrier," said Sprint Chairman (and SoftBank CEO) Masayoshi Son.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Claure's Brightstar was acquired by SoftBank back in January, shifting the executive into an ideal vantage point as part of Sprint's board of directors to slide right into the now-vacant CEO position.

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