T-Mobile & Sprint Merger Officially Closes

To no one’s surprise, the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint finally closed this morning.[1]

With the closure of the merger, John Legere is stepping down from his position as T-Mobile’s CEO. Legere will be replaced by Michael Sievert, who was until now the COO of T-Mobile.

I continue to think the merger is going to be bad for consumers over the long term. However, we should see some things that are good for consumers in the short term, like the recently released T-Mobile Connect plans.

T-Mobile & Sprint Merger Rumored To Be Headed For Approval

Several state attorneys general have been suing to stop a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. Rumors came out earlier this evening that the judge presiding over the case is planning to rule in favor of the merger. Here’s a bit from a Wall Street Journal article:

A federal judge is expected to approve T-Mobile US Inc.’s merger with Sprint Corp., according to people familiar with the matter, clearing the way for the two wireless rivals to combine and overcoming a state antitrust challenge.

The rumors are almost certainly correct. Sprint’s stock soared in after-hours trading. The market closed with Sprint trading at close to $4.80. Since then, the stock has been trading for almost 70% more at over $8 per share:[1]

Sprint Stock Price After Merger

T-Mobile’s stock experienced a more modest after-hours rise from about $85 per share to slightly over $90 per share:

T-Mobile stock price graph after merger with Sprint

I’m planning to write something more detailed once the news is made official and the companies involved release statements.

Location, Location, Location

In my opinion, major wireless networks can be ranked pretty clearly in terms of their current, nationwide reliability:

  1. Verizon (best)
  2. AT&T
  3. T-Mobile
  4. Sprint (worst)

I get frustrated when network operators make misleading statements about nationwide quality, and I sometimes write articles calling out bullshit claims. That said, a network’s typical reliability throughout the U.S. may be very different from that network’s quality in a given area. When deciding which carrier you should use, it only matters how carriers perform where you want to use your phone.

In the last year, I’ve run speed tests in Boulder, Colorado with a bunch of carriers (using all four of the major U.S. networks). A few days ago, I ran a speed test on a phone with service from Tello, a carrier that runs over Sprint’s network. While Sprint has the worst nationwide network, the speed test found a download speed far faster than I’ve seen in Boulder with any other carrier:

129 Mbps speed test result

As a general rule, service is more expensive on networks with better nationwide performance. If you live where an underdog network performs well, you might be able to get great service at a bargain price.

Sprint – Now Offering Nationwide 5G!??

Today I was looking at Sprint’s coverage map. By default, the map appears to be displaying Sprint’s coverage profile for 5G data:

Sprint barely has any 5G coverage, so the map surprised me.

If you change the selection in the dropdown menu, you’ll see that the area shaded for “Data coverage” is identical whether the 4G or the 5G option is selected. However, the shaded area changes when “Non-LTE” is selected on the dropdown. I think Sprint may have made an honest mistake, but it has the potential to confuse consumers.

As you scroll in on specific areas, the “Data coverage” entry in the legend disappears and more finely grained categories appear:

It’s odd that users can select specific types of coverage but still see a map that differentiates between multiple types of coverage.

We know AT&T is willing to mislead its customers into believing their 4G service is 5G. At the moment, I’m going to give Sprint the benefit of the doubt. After all, the legend doesn’t even appear until a user toggles its visibility.

DOJ Clears T-Mobile’s Merger With Sprint

As expected, the Department of Justice made an announcement today approving a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. While the merger isn’t officially closed, DOJ approval was the largest hurdle T-Mobile and Sprint needed to jump before making their merger a reality.

As far as I can tell, the terms of the merger were consistent with what most commentators were expecting:

  • Most of Sprint’s prepaid business will be divested to DISH[1]
  • DISH will get Sprint’s 800 MHz spectrum
  • DISH will receive access to the New T-Mobile’s network for at least 7 years[2]
  • DISH will have the option to take over leases on some retail stores and cell sites

I don’t think mergers between telecom companies have a good track record of benefiting consumers. I hope this merger will be different, but I’m not betting on it. As many others have pointed out, something is odd about the whole arrangement. The divestitures to DISH are ostensibly intended to allow DISH to create a viable, facilities-based carrier (i.e., a carrier that has its own hardware and doesn’t just piggyback off other companies’ networks). If DISH is likely to succeed, it’s hard to explain why Sprint couldn’t remain a viable force. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something important.

I expect the merger-related transitions to take a few years, and I plan to write about new developments as they occur. Should be interesting.


For those interested, here are a few excerpts from T-Mobile’s announcement:

The proposed New T-Mobile, will divest Sprint’s prepaid businesses and Sprint’s 800 MHz spectrum assets to DISH. Additionally, upon the closing of the divestiture transaction, the companies will provide DISH wireless customers access to the New T-Mobile network for seven years and offer standard transition services arrangements to DISH during a transition period of up to three years. DISH will also have an option to take on leases for certain cell sites and retail locations that are decommissioned by the New T-Mobile, subject to any assignment restrictions.
The New T-Mobile will be committed to divest Sprint’s entire prepaid businesses including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Sprint-branded prepaid customers (excluding the Assurance brand Lifeline customers and the prepaid wireless customers of Shenandoah Telecommunications Company and Swiftel Communications, Inc.), to DISH for approximately $1.4 billion. These brands serve approximately 9.3 million customers in total.
With this agreement, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint-branded prepaid customers, as well as new DISH wireless customers, will have full access to the legacy Sprint network and the New T-Mobile network in a phased approach. Access to the New T-Mobile network will be through an MVNO arrangement, as well as through an Infrastructure MNO arrangement enabling roaming in certain areas until DISH’s 5G network is built out.
The companies have also committed to engage in good faith negotiations regarding the leasing of some or all of DISH’s 600 MHz spectrum to T-Mobile.