Commentary

T-Mobile's Acquisition Of Sprint Is Done, Speeding Up 5G Deployment

After a marathon series of courtships that eventually involved assuaging regulators worried about the impact the merger would have on consumers, T-Mobile completed its acquisition of Sprint yesterday. Its cheerleading leader -- the magenta-clad John Legere -- has departed the scene a month earlier than had been previously announced. His protégé, Mike Sievert, succeeds him. 

“The merger, worth about $31.8 billion based on T-Mobile’s closing stock price Tuesday, marks the end for Sprint as a company and a brand. The once-thriving network operator spent most of the past decade losing customers after a string of engineering and marketing missteps gave the upper hand to rivals, T-Mobile chief among them,” Drew FitzGerald writes   for The Wall Street Journal.

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“The Justice Department eventually signed off on the deal with conditions that armed newcomer Dish Network Corp. with customer accounts, wireless network infrastructure and other provisions designed to jump-start the satellite company’s entrance into the cellphone business. The transaction will shift about nine million prepaid service accounts, most of them under its Boost Mobile brand, to Dish,” FitzGerald adds.

But, at least for now, Dish is not playing in the same league.

“While the shift from four carriers to just three -- AT&T, Verizon, and the newly expanded T-Mobile -- will have huge implications in the coming months and years, there are more immediate questions for Sprint customers: what will happen next for them in the short term now that their mobile carrier is technically T-Mobile?” Chaim Gartenberg posits  for The Verge.

“The answer, for now, is not much -- at least in the short term. T-Mobile has previously said that it will take about three years to fully integrate Sprint into its operations and network setup. That means it’s currently business as usual. Sprint customers will still use a separate Sprint network, while existing T-Mobile customers will still use T-Mobile’s,” Gartenberg answers.

“Got it, but will there be any changes to my rates?” the average customer is asking.

“Nope, we're not making any changes to your rate plan today. Over time, you will see additional benefits as we supercharge our network and honor our commitment to offer the same or better rate plans to our customers,” T-Mobile responds in an FAQ.

So what’s this really all about? 

“The new business … will have about 100 million customers. To keep them and add to their ranks, the company plans to quickly develop the fifth-generation wireless technology that will bring broadband-style service through the air and is seen as a critical component of the nation’s infrastructure. T-Mobile has said that deploying 5G would have taken much longer and cost much more without the addition of Sprint,” Edmund Lee writes  for The New York Times.

“Upgrading the networks also makes T-Mobile a formidable challenger to AT&T and Verizon, Mr. Sievert said in an interview. ‘It used to be that customers were forced to choose: Do you want a better network? Or a better value? Now you don’t have to choose,’ he said,” Lee adds.

“By merging with Sprint … T-Mobile gets its hands on midband spectrum, the wireless airwaves coveted by carriers for their ability to boost speeds while still working indoors -- something the widely deployed low-band and millimeter-wave 5G networks can't do. T-Mobile and Sprint customers, who for years endured networks with poor reputations, may soon find their positions reversed,” Eli Blumenthal writes for CNET.

Midband spectrum offers an “almost ideal blend of actually being able to work indoors and actually giving you significantly faster speeds than 4G,” Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart tells Blumenthal, who reveals that Greengart saw download speeds between 300Mbps and 500Mbps when he tested Sprint's service in a hotel room in Chicago.

“I believe the New T-Mobile has the spectrum and the assets to really be a force for change in this 5G era and that’s why we are so happy to finally see this merger complete. The uncertainty around the merger also created some issues for the industry as the New T-Mobile is a much larger and more competitive player in the market and is likely to change market dynamics as a result,” Moor Insights & Strategy  mobility and VR analyst Anshel Sag writes  for Forbes.

Also changing market dynamics, of course, is COVID-19.

“Everything from meetings at the office to happy hours with friends are all now occurring in digital space…,” writes Blair Levin, who led the team that wrote the 2010 National Broadband Plan at the Federal Communications Commission. “The previous peak has become the new average, and the surge is starting to threaten the quality and speed of content downloads.

His analysis for Brookings is titled, “COVID-19 proves we need to continue upgrading America’s broadband infrastructure.”

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