Will T-Mobile Customers Have To Replace Phones After Merger Completes?

We touched on this in the wrap-up of this mornings AT&T Press call but apparently it’s causing such a stir we’re going to try and clarify a few things:

With AT&T planning to use T-Mobile’s existing 1700 MHz spectrum for future LTE rollouts, AT&T execs are saying that T-Mobile customers will have to replace their current 3G/4G phones once the merger is completed. This will be a mandatory upgrade unless of course you want your phone to work on edge only.

The spectrum they use for third-generation services, or 3G, will be re-purposed for 4G, which is faster. That would leave current T-Mobile phones without 3G. They would need to be replaced with phones that use AT&T’s 3G frequencies. Ralph de la Vega, AT&T’s head of wireless and consumer services, said this will happen as part of the normal phone upgrade process. “There’s nothing for them to worry about … it will be done over time, in a way that’s good for customers and good for AT&T,” says Ralph de la Vega.

This is bad news, no way around it, however the only way to positively spin this is that any change won’t occur for some time. The merger is expected to close sometime within 12-18 months and that’s when the real work begins. It could take years before the time comes where T-Mobile customers will be in a situation where they will be forced to make the switch. It’s not going to happen overnight and it’s likely if you were to sign a 2 year contract tomorrow, you’d run it out before you’d have to give it up.

So what will AT&T do for customers who are forced to give up their equipment? AT&T has mentioned that the cost of issuing replacement phones was built into the cost of the deal itself. Will they be giving away free phones that are of equal or better value? There is no way to answer that question yet but AT&T would have a riot on their hands if they just expected all T-Mobile customers to up and pay for new equipment.

Should you buy a new T-Mobile phone right now? Absolutely. There is no reason to suspect you’d have to get rid of the phone in any time frame that wouldn’t’ allow you to get your money’s worth. Aside from that, this deal is going to drive the FCC and DOJ crazy and until it’s approved, we can’t act as though it’s already happened.

T-Mobile has tried to clear up that they are still two separate companies. T-Mobile is going about business as usual and so should you. If you want the HTC Pyramid, get it! The T-Mobile G2X? Get it and then use it in good health.

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