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T-Mobile / Sprint merger FAQ: What you need to know, updated February 2020


T-Mobile is wrapping up its Sprint acquisition and now it’s tying up the loose ends.

Despite all of the opposition and debate, T-Mobile is finishing up with its purchase of Sprint thanks to a ruling from New York judge Victor Marrero allowing the two corporations to merge. Whether this ends up being a good thing for the customer remains to be seen, but in the short term, the combined company under the New T-Mobile name will be a real competitor for AT&T and Verizon.

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  • Is the deal done?
  • Is the fight over?
  • What is 5G for Good?

A long and slow ride

  • How long until this affects customers?
  • Will my service change?
  • Will my plan change?
  • Who’s paying for this?

The technology

  • Is this all about 5G?
  • Does T-Mobile need Sprint for 5G?

Dish Network

  • How does Dish fit in?
  • What does Dish get?
  • Can Dish really compete?

Should we be excited?

  • Is the world better without Sprint?
  • Is it worth it?



Is the deal done?

At this point, there’s no stopping this train. T-Mobile is putting the finishing touches on the deal and has even confidently announced that the Galaxy S20 series of phones will be the first 5G devices to be able to utilize both 5G networks. T-Mobile’s progress was helped along quite a bit by a recent victory in Federal Court in New York. Judge Victor Marrero rejected a lawsuit from 14 state attorneys attempting to block the deal.

Is the fight over?

The main argument against the merger has been that the merger would lead to a reduction in affordable wireless service. T-Mobile has pledged to not raise prices for three years and has even launched a 5G for Good initiative that outlines how its 5G network will provide better access and more affordable options to many Americans. It’s impossible to tell exactly how well T-Mobile will stick to these pledges but it is somewhat reassuring to see them.

Any large corporate merger like this will attract the attention of antitrust advocates so we may still see opposition, but the fight is over for now and the companies are set to merge as early as April 1, 2020.

What is 5G for Good?

5G for good is an initiative being pushed by T-Mobile that would use the power of the Sprint and T-Mobile hybrid 5G network for the greater good. The greater good. With three parts, 5G for Good consists of the Connecting Heroes Initiative which would provide free 5G service to first responders. Project 10Million aims to provide students with a quality internet connection and T-Mobile Connect is a cheaper plan to help people get connected for a low cost.

Of course, this initiative is likely an effort to improve public opinion about the New T-Mobile but at least some good might come out of all of this.

A long and slow ride

How long until this affects customers?

No matter which carrier you use, you’re probably not going to see anything different for quite a while. Even if the merger was finished today and new names were being put on buildings and desks, nothing would immediately change.

Many Sprint customers may have seen improvements in service thanks to a roaming deal that allowed Sprint customers to connect to T-Mobile towers in areas Sprint had a weak signal. This is not directly related to the merger but does show what may be possible in the short term when the two companies work together.

Will my service change?

Even when the deal is final, things will stay the same for a while. Your phone isn’t going to stop working and your coverage isn’t going to suddenly get better just because the company you make payments to has changed. There’s the infrastructure to install or change, equipment that needs to be approved for use, and a lot of financing to be obtained before a single line is transferred to any all-new network. Expect everything to stay just the way it is until mid-2020 at the earliest.

As a T-Mobile customer, the short term gain here is a well-balanced plan for a 5G network rollout at scale. Sprint’s spectrum assets only need an influx of cash to become the basis for a strong 5G proto-network and T-Mobile has a strange knack for making money as well as plenty of its own 600MHz spectrum. These short-term gains can’t be ignored.


Will my plan change?

Your monthly bill will probably remain unchanged. If you were an existing customer of either Sprint or T-Mobile, you most likely don’t like the idea of paying more money every month. The executives and accountants know that and have a good idea of what would happen if plan pricing were to increase because of the merger. T-Mobile has promised regulators that it will not raise prices for three years after the merger.

One day, though, you will be connecting through a new network and may see a different price. If we are to believe the persons in charge of the deal, our network will be better, more people will have access, everything will be cheaper, and rainbows will lie down with unicorns. The reality is probably a little less rosy.


Who’s paying for this?

Someone has to pay for a new T-Mobile 5G network and in the end that someone is you and me.

Someone has to pay for a new T-Mobile 5G-ready network. T-Mobile isn’t going to eat the costs without passing them along and pricing is going to have to change somewhere. New 5G plans will have to be built in a way that turns a profit once billions are spent on the new T-Mobile network. I expect things to become very competitive in regard to pricing across the big three (sorry Dish) at first. T-Mobile won’t seem overly expensive but will lose the much-loved “budget-friendly” reputation it has today.

The technology

Is this all about 5G?

Pretty much. On the network side, most of what the two companies tell us is true — combined assets of Sprint and T-Mobile have the ability to build out a network that’s much better than either was individually, especially when 5G becomes part of the picture.

A combined Sprint/T-Mobile could build a Sub-6 5G network that covers millions and millions of people without a huge expenditure. In layman’s terms, that means a T-Mobile network that has coverage similar to LTE with superior capacity and speed. As time goes on, further expansion into the millimeter wave spectrum can help keep speeds high in dense areas with crowded towers.

T-Mobile has already shown what’s possible with its low-band network in a fairly short period and, like T-Mobile’s 600MHz deployment, Sprint’s 2.5GHz expansion will also improve speeds for LTE customers.


Does T-Mobile need Sprint for 5G?

T-Mobile currently has 5G spectrum in the high-band at 28GHz and 32GHz as well as low-band at 600MHz. While 600MHz is great for coverage it won’t be able to provide as much speed or capacity as mid or high-band 5G. Sprint’s sub-6 (mid-band) 2.5GHz spectrum sits right in the middle with a good balance in coverage and speed.

T-Mobile has described the potential network as a layer cake.

With all three networks together, New T-Mobile will have a network that can be optimized for any kind of area with different geography and density. At some point, all carriers will be able to decommission sub-6 3G and 4G bands for use with 5G but Sprint is one of the only carriers ready to go today.


Dish Network

How does Dish Network fit in?

If everything goes as planned, Dish becomes the new Sprint: the fourth player in U.S. wireless providers. It’s a distant fourth, though, as the top three will have well over 100 million subscribers each, have a huge advantage when it comes to spectrum and other assets, and the benefit of an existing customer base. Dish has a momentous climb to relevance even with the concessions made as part of the merger.

Where Dish has an advantage is a well-established entertainment network. A Dish-owned network has a turn-key option for Satellite TV, Home Broadband, and now Mobile Broadband packages much like AT&T or Verizon offer. That’s a pretty big deal as an all-in-one package seems like a great value when we are shopping for any of those kinds of offerings. And Dish will be able to piggyback on T-Mobile’s network for seven years, so it has plenty of time to find the right way to entice customers before it is forced to spend real money on a network.

More: Dish and Google could create a new wireless carrier

What does Dish get?

The newly formed company will sell off Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint’s prepaid service and subscribers, and 800MHz spectrum assets to Dish Network, This would make Dish the de facto Sprint replacement and the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S. based on current subscriber counts. To help keep Dish’s dreams alive, over 20,000 cell sites and retail outlets plus free access to the current T-Mobile network for seven years is also part of the deal. Dish is optimistic that it can be the new Sprint and be better than the old Sprint was, and with this kind of help, it might be able to make that happen.

That brings us to where we are today. We lose Sprint, gain Dish, and watch our government in action at the state level as the merger tries to wind its way through a dozen or so lesser courts. Love it or hate it, it looks like this is a done deal and that leads to what’s most important for us: will this make a difference in our service or our monthly bill?

Can Dish really compete?

Still, the idea of Dish becoming a strong competitor and the current landscape of having four different choices staying in place is, well, a lie. Let’s not mince words. Dish could pull this off and become a viable number four but as of today, it’s the proud owner of 50 million or so Sprint prepaid network customers through all the concessions made. Going from that to a major player is no easy ride.

These hurdles seem a lot easier to jump if Google actually works with Dish to make it a competitive carrier, though my gut says the talks would simply create another Google Fi situation.

Should we be excited?

Is the world better without Sprint?

I follow the U.S. carrier landscape daily because it’s my job. I’m also a semi-happy T-Mobile customer and live in an area where Sprint has a damn good LTE network. And since I’m also paid to offer an opinion sometimes, I have to say I hate seeing this happen.

It’s true that this is probably the only way Sprint doesn’t go bankrupt. The company has hemorrhaged cash for so long it can’t afford to follow its existing LTE roadmap, let alone work on a 5G roadmap that is economically feasible, so the options for the company look pretty bleak. Today, as a Sprint customer, this approval means you might get to keep the service you have at the price you have instead of seeing the company chopped up and its assets auctioned off. Or worse — becoming a federally funded and controlled network carrier.


Is it worth it?

It’s the long-term that worries me, though. Sprint, in particular, carved a current niche as a carrier that offers nationwide network family access at a fraction of the price of its competitors offer. Someone with four or more lines on a Sprint unlimited family plan is paying about $100 for it all, and chances are they are happy enough to keep paying it. For the individual, T-Mobile leads the industry when it comes to an affordable and robust unlimited network. In both cases, there are ways AT&T or Verizon outclasses the competition, but overall you get a good value from either Sprint or T-Mobile.

The new T-Mobile promises that this will continue, but there is no consumer model to keep them in check. Be honest — if you’re unhappy with the service from T-Mobile, would you consider a “lesser” network from Dish or a more expensive network from Verizon as an apt replacement? What if pricing on plans inches closer and closer to AT&T’s rates now that there is no viable budget carrier to keep things honest? Companies exist only to make a profit, and we should expect the new T-Mobile to do anything it can get away with to make that happen.

Taking away a choice has never made for more and better choices, and this will turn out no different, in my opinion.

For any carrier

Google Pixel 3a


$322 at Amazon

A phone for all major carriers

An unlocked Pixel 3a is a pure Android experience with a great camera. It works on all major carriers so you can bring it with you if you switch.


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