back to article Spri-Mobile? T-Print? Time to think of a nickname: The Sprint/T-Mobile US merger is go

Uncle Sam's legal eagles have cleared Sprint and T-Mobile US to go ahead with a $26bn merger the two cellular networks have been planning for years. The US Dept of Justice on Friday said it, along with five state attorneys general, has agreed to a settlement package with the two telcos that will allow them to ultimately clear …

  1. Ol'Peculier

    And meanwhile the USA still haven't got contactless, let alone chip and pin

    1. Some Random Kiwi

      Re: contactless/chip and pin

      We had contactless cards, but when you can use a contactless card without PIN or signature it's ripe for ripoffs. Most of the contactless cards went away at the next refresh.

      We do have cards that present two alternative authentication methods (1) chip & sign, (2) chip & pin. Most terminals aren't smart enough to use anything but the first method presented. Most European and Australian terminals choke and suggest a signature even when they're unattended and have no mechanism to accept a signature -- some just go ahead without any authentication.

      I put the blame squarely on the terminal manufacturers (who seem to be mostly American, so yes, that's the USA's fault)

      My iPhone works just fine on the contactless terminals (which are many places now)

      1. BuckeyeB

        Re: contactless/chip and pin

        The thing is, my bank protects me if I don't use the pin and there is fraud. The money is back in my account within 24 hours. If there is a pin, then it's much worse for me. It seems to them to not be fraud by others, but perhaps by me. And I still have one card without a chip. Still protected 100%. The chip and pin is to protect them not us.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      And this has what exactly to do with a merger of two cellular companies?

  2. rcxb Bronze badge

    TMo just wants the customers, Sprint's network is mostly incompatible and almost entirely overlaps with their own. They should have divested the entire Sprint network, with just a few years of free use as they force customers to change their handsets to TMo compatible ones. Of course that would have been an instant competitor in the cellular space, whereas this way they can hope Dish doesn't follow-through and ever become competitive (which is most likely).

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Big gear purchases

      RCXB, I also found it strange that two companies with different protocols (CDMA v GSM) would make a good merger. I expect that the resulting system will be GSM since it's more prevalent worldwide which will mean Sprint sites that overlap with T-mobile will be phased out with the remainder re-provisioned with GSM tech. It will have the effect of improving coverage but reducing capacity.

      1. HereIAmJH

        Re: Big gear purchases

        It's only strange if you aren't keeping up with technology. The CDMA vs GSM argument is largely irrelevant now that LTE is deployed. Legacy voice will be going away in a few years, and T-Mobile is a leader in VoLTE/VOIP. Also keep in mind that T-Mobile has done this type of merge in the past with the acquisition of Metro PCS. And with the deployment of 5g the older technologies will become even more irrelevant. Now it's just a waiting game to get customers to upgrade their handsets.

        They'll have to run both networks for a while, but they'll pick the best towers out of both networks and let the leases on the others expire. Everyone buys from the same equipment suppliers so it's just a matter of re-provisioning and updating antennas to support the merged spectrum. A process that will move quickly because T-Mobile needs the 2.5g spectrum for LTE/5G soon.

        Network is a fixed cost that is divided per subscriber. So Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all pay roughly the same cost for equivalent coverage. The larger carriers have a lower cost per subscriber advantage. The merged company will have the same cost per subscriber that it has now, but with a path to lowering that cost. That's one reason why all the hand wringing about T-Mobile raising prices after the merger makes no sense. T-Mobile doesn't compete with Sprint now. And when you increase their ARPU due to lower fixed cost per subscriber, they will earn more at their current prices so there is no need to raise them.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Big gear purchases

          Metro PCS was/is a tower-less carrier. They resold service on the T-Mobile network so it's not a good comparison.

          1. rcxb Bronze badge

            Re: Big gear purchases

            That's not true. Before T-Mobile bought them, MetroPCS had their own CDMA network, but only in the largest metro areas, hence the name. You may be thinking of some other MVNO.

        2. rcxb Bronze badge

          Re: Big gear purchases

          He's not entirely wrong, because Sprint has awful LTE coverage, and it's only their CDMA network that gives them anything like a decent footprint.

          You, however, are COMPLETELY wrong in saying TMo doesn't compete with Sprint. They are fierce competitors, always responding to the others' pricing and promotions, and even more so in the wholesale/mvno markets.

          Your rosy pronouncements for the merger only make sense if Sprint customers all stay with TMo. It's quite likely a significant number of them will flee to ATT, or Verizon. Nothing in the merger will give TMo a footprint comparable to those two, and it will still take years of expansion to become comparable, 3rd place competitor.

          1. HereIAmJH

            Re: Big gear purchases

            Frequency determines signal propagation, not network technology. Sprint's primary frequency for CDMA is 1900. Which was a good, middle of the road spectrum for voice with a 1/4 century of densifying towers in urban areas.. Sprint rolled out LTE on 800 as they re-farmed iDEN. But 800 isn't as good as 700 for coverage, and I believe they only had 5+5 in many markets. Which meant if the LTE couldn't hand off to a higher frequency it would quickly run out of bandwidth.

            As far a footprint is concerned, the only way you get that is with $$$. AT&T and Verizon also have the benefit of being former Bell companies. They are the incumbent local loop providers for most of the US and that helps considerably when you need backhaul for a tower. Sprint and T-Mobile stick to urban areas because they have a higher network cost to revenue ratio. Putting New T-Mobile up around 130m subscribers should help the revenue equation (higher utilization on rural towers) once they have fully absorbed Sprint.

            I have confidence in the subscriber number based simply on past performance. T-Mobile hired Legere in September 2012. The numbers on Statista say Q1 '13 T-Mobile had 34m subscribers. Metro had 9m. Sprint had 55m and Clearwire had 9.5m. Verizon had 117m and AT&T had 107m. Jump to Q3 '18 and T-Mobile has 77m (79% increase). Sprint has 53.5m (17% decrease). Verizon 154m (32% increase). And AT&T 150m (40% increase). Since Legere will be leading the new company, I would expect churn to stay low (and subscriber growth to continue) unless they bungle the merge like Sprint did with Nextel.

            1. BuckeyeB

              Re: Big gear purchases

              Those customer counts seem higher than the US population. I know some people have multiple phones from work and home, but is everyone buying phones for their preschoolers on up?

    2. Updraft102 Silver badge

      They should have divested the entire Sprint network, with just a few years of free use as they force customers to change their handsets to TMo compatible ones.

      Never! I replace my phone when it fails, not a moment before! My handset may be more than 10 years old, but it still works, and I have no intention of replacing it as long as that's the case.

      I pay $6.66 per month for prepaid Virgin Mobile service and more air time than I will ever use (the only time I ever use it is when my landline fails, which happens with annoying frequency... otherwise, the airtime just builds up and up), and I have no need nor desire for anything else. I'm grandfathered in, as this deal is no longer available, and it's tied to my existing phone, so my sweet deal looks to have numbered days.

      This merger deal is not looking at all like good news. One way or another, they're going to try to get me to pay more for what I already have (an ideal, perfectly working phone, along with ideal, perfectly priced service). Progress can bite my shiny, metal ass... my voice-only slider phone that costs basically nothing to keep ready in case of emergencies is perfect as it is.

    3. token

      It's not the customers so much as it's that juicy 2.5ghz "midband" spectrum Sprint has so much of. Hundreds of megahertz of bandwidth, and now Tmo is the largest spectrum holder in the US, whereas before, they had the least.. I'm also not including mmwave, because in all honesty, it just isn't relevant for most people's uses.

  3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    It would be interesting to know what "certain spectrum assets to Dish" means exactly.

    1. tango_uniform

      Sprint's selling their 800MHz portfolio to Dish, according to reports. This makes sense as they've not rolled it out very much and there's not enough of it to be good for IMT2020 (5G) stuff. It's mainly used as a gap-filler in problem coverage areas where 2.5GHz stuff couldn't propagate.

      The bigger news here is that Dish looks like they're getting the FCC to extend the deadline for them to deploy on all the 3.5GHz spectrum they bought so they could well be second in the race to "real" 5G. This has got to piss off VZW and AT&T and may well be the beginning of an inversion of the US cellular market.

      The few bozos left moaning about "choice" and "higher prices" that they see coming are going to get steamrolled. The fact is that Sprint likely was heading to some sort of BK/restructure event. These blowhards should shut up and keep an eye on the new T-Mob to see if they keep their promises they made to the DoJ and FCC.

      1. HereIAmJH

        800 MHz

        Actually, Sprint's 800 MHz is rolled out everywhere. It was Nextel spectrum. It has been mostly refarmed since the shutdown of the Nextel network. Limited primarily by regulatory issues. But T-Mobile's 700 is better low band spectrum and I believe they have significantly more of it. So the merged company would likely use 700, 1900, and 2500 while investigating higher bands for backhaul and very dense/high demand areas. (Stadiums, arenas, etc)

        1. token

          Re: 800 MHz

          Tmo doesn't have 700mhz licenses across the country... But are about to have nationwide 600mhz once the tv repack is completed in a year or so. Which is slightly better spectrum (and they have more of it, too)

      2. overunder

        "....shut up and keep an eye on the new T-Mob to see if they keep their promises they made to the DoJ and FCC."

        As a T-Mobile user, I always have 1 eye on the "3G" and the other eye on "e". But you go ahead and believe in corporate "promises", I'll be right here in reality. However, I promise they'll make good on the constant promise to share holders and raise my bill.

  4. JassMan Silver badge
    Joke

    T-Mobile's last big merger created EE

    So obviously the new one has to be FF (Fscking Fonefloggers)

    "The T-Mobile and Sprint merger we announced last April will create a bigger and bolder competitor than ever before – one that will deliver the most transformative 4.5G network in the country, higher prices, lower quality, unmatched value and thousands of job losses

    FTFT

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: T-Mobile's last big merger created EE

      From what I understand all the US networks are pretty crap by European standards. That's why they all wanted a slice of the Pai.

  5. HildyJ

    T-Mint

    It briefly freshens your connection which then goes back to its stale state and hopes you don't notice.

    1. tfewster Silver badge

      Re: T-Mint

      Spit-bile

      Sp-oil

      S-oil

      Pri-mo

    2. Do Not Fold Spindle Mutilate
      Joke

      Re: T-Mint

      The new company nick name should be sPILE. The connection is there but the through put is a SPrint-tmobILE.

  6. katrinab Silver badge

    STM?

    That would combine both names. But actually, given that T-Mobile will still exist elsewhere, eg Germany, and Sprint doesn’t, I’m guessing it will be called Sprint.

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: STM?

      Well, as T-mobile exists as such in Deutschland, perhaps they should call the merger STD.

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: STM?

        Well, as T-mobile exists as such in Deutschland, perhaps they should call the merger STD.

        Star Trek Discovery?? Well, from what I've heard about the series, much the same as the thing you were implying.

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: STM?

          It was a puncronym, because STD could mean a kind of disease but also stands for an old landline system - Subscriber Trunk Dialling, the first time you could make long distance calls without an operator.

    2. IglooDude

      Re: STM?

      Given the relative reputations in the US the two carriers have (as indicated by Sprint steadily losing customers and TMo gaining them faster than anyone else) they will likely (and should) drop the Sprint side.

      "Sprobil" is shaping up as the merger name in my office (MVNE with connections to both), at least.

  7. DougS Silver badge

    Dish is biting off more than they can chew

    Their CEO claims it will cost $10 billion to build out a nationwide cellular network. Verizon spends $15 billion a year on theirs JUST TO MAINTAIN IT.

    The FCC/FTC seems to think Dish will become the 4th big cellular competitor, but I doubt it. There's no way they have the money to build out a network that can compete for mobile services. I think they'll install a data only 5G network in populated areas to compete with the big 3 on fixed wireless data, but not bother with mobile since that means building out a network in the 99% of the US landmass that's not profitable. They've got T-Mobile on the hook to provide them MVNO services for 7 years, after which they can just say "it is too hard to compete cellular carrier, so we're shutting Boost down".

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T-Sprint

    Those attorney's general trying to stop/block the T-mobile/Sprint merger were first unhappy about not having a fourth carrier and that reducing to three would decrease Competition. Now that the FCC and DOJ have both blessed the deal, NOW it's that they doubt that Dish could grow into a viable competitor. There's no way to know that for certain, without the merger and allowing Dish to work on it. Every concession asked for by the Government has been made. The Lawyers need to stop wasting tax payer dollars and let the process complete. Get it over with and let the Merger happen. Still need to see what it will mean for Spring Customers in particular, as to when we'll have to buy T-Mobile phones and if there will be any discount for Sprint customers. We shall see!!

  9. siluri

    Name

    MINTS

  10. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

    SprinTee-Mobile?

    S-Mobile? A.N.Other silly merged company name? I prefer Alan, or maybe Jeff,... yeah call it Jeff.

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