T-Mobile-Sprint merger update: Review in early stages, no decision from regulators on how many carriers U.S. needs


Wondering how the government’s review of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger is going? Today we got an update on the situation.

U.S. antitrust officials are in the “early stages” of reviewing the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, a source has told Reuters. The regulators haven’t reached a conclusion on how many carriers the U.S. market needs, but the tipster did say that “at least” three carriers are necessary and that reports that officials have decided on just three carriers as the right number aren’t totally accurate.

The T-Mobile-Sprint merger was first announced in late April 2018. While it was given the green light by both companies involved, the deal must also get regulatory approval before it can actually go through. T-Mo and Sprint have said that they expect the merger to close no later than the first half of 2019.

T-Mobile and Sprint have positioned the merger as a way to launch a nationwide 5G network that’ll be broader and deeper than either company could deploy on its own. They also say that it will be good for U.S. job growth and create more competition in the U.S. wireless market. Opponents of the merger have argued that we’re more likely to see better innovation and price competition with four carriers and that the deal could have negative effects on the prepaid market and prepaid customers.

As a reminder, the FCC is now accepting public comments on the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger and you can share your opinions with the agency right here.

Source: Reuters

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  • francob911 .

    The U.S. needs 4 carriers the less competition the more expensive it would be for us consumers

    • Sharti24

      USCC, there’s your 4 carriers

      • Except they’re in just a few states.

      • Jason Caprio

        I wouldn’t consider US Cellular a major carrier. But they do have a major presence in states where T-Mobile struggles. If this merge fails, maybe Sprint will merge/buyout US Cellular to become a more worthy #4 carrier.

        • phonefreak

          US Cellular owners have already said many times that they do not want to sell out to anyone. They are perfectly fine being a regional carrier. They must have some good deals with the other carriers for roaming agreements since they have never considered merging with another to become bigger. They last time they sold any spectrum was to sprint for the st. louis spectrum they held.

      • Acdc1a

        If they have to divest enough spectrum to US Cellular for them to be a true competitor I think you’d have far fewer objections.

    • disqus_7XunpanFgK

      The US does NOT need 4 carriers. Or 5. Or 3. There is no correct number. Nor is it correct to say that having 3 carriers will cause prices to rise vs having 4 carriers. There is simply no factual data to support that supposition.

      • francob911 .

        France and Canada went down to 3 and prices spiked up. Thats why I think the prices will go up here in the U.S. too.

        • vrm

          france and canada are far too socialist to be of any consequence for comparison. Canada’s market is very protected- hence the higher prices and lower quality of service.

  • JG

    T-Mobile and Sprint have positioned the merger as a way to launch a nationwide 5G network that’ll be broader and deeper than either company could deploy on its own.

    Merging their spectrum to create a stronger offering reminds me of an article I saw not too long ago, about the Trump administration considering the possibilities of creating a national 5G network…

    Instead of 4 different cellular networks covering a single area, each with their own 10-30Mhz chunk of the 600Mhz spectrum, the FCC could operate a single network, with access to all 100Mhz of the 600Mhz spectrum, as well as all of the 700Mhz spectrum and all of the other cellular frequencies. Sprint’s country dirt road would merge with T-Mobile’s city street, and Verizon and AT&T’s 4 lane highways to create a new 20 lane mega-highway.

    AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular etc would basically become MVNOs, along with Comcast, Spectrum, Google and anyone else who wants to offer mobile phone/data services to their customers. All with a 100% nationwide network at their disposal.

    Of course, while a single network, with massive amounts of spectrum sounds promising there would be drawbacks… Like it would be operated by the Government… And with a single provider operating the network, should they have technical issues, everyone in the entire country will go dark…

    • Acdc1a

      The downsides FAR outweigh any upside to a government run network.

  • vinnyjr

    If this merger goes through I hope my service in Suburb of Boston stays the same. My speed are the fastest of any Carrier, getting sick speeds, Thank You T-Mobile, Thank You John Legere.

  • Jason Caprio

    If T-Mobile and Sprint merge, it will be a disaster for competition when it comes to pricing. If you have 3 equally big carriers, you can bet that they will all pretend to be competing with each other, however they will make backroom deals with each other keeping each others’ prices equal and higher.

    A perfect example of this is Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia. They are 2 famous cheesesteak places directly across from each other. At first glance it may seem like they are direct competitors, but if you’ve been to both, you will observe they ALWAYS match each others’ prices directly. Over the last 20 years, they’ve both incrementally raised each others’ prices at the exact same time. One of them is NEVER cheaper than the other. They obviously work together to make a bigger profit since they both provide an equally tasty cheesesteak.

    The same will go if all 3 carriers have equal coverage/speeds. Same high prices and no competition. This will be terrible for the consumer.

    • francob911 .

      Its true

    • iCrap

      Sprint is gonna go bk. Would you rather them merge with tmobile, or have att and Verizon gobble up what’s left? I mean the government could go the extreme and ban att and Verizon from buying spectrum for thirty years but that’s never gonna happen

      • Jason Caprio

        If sprint goes bankrupt, I would assume their spectrum portfolio and equipment would be liquidated and put up for auction. That’s just my wildest guess.

        • Sharti24

          And you want Att/Verizon to bid on that? Tmobile needs Sprint to compete now. Their towers/spectrum and customers do that. Their debt is the price to pay if theyre allowed to merge

        • Jason Caprio

          Honestly with the rate T-Mobile’s coverage has been growing, despite the gaps in rural coverage, I’d say they’re doing just fine on their own. Their overall LTE coverage and speeds completely destroy Sprint. I guess T-Mobile merging with Sprint is the lesser of two evils than Sprint going bankrupt. I don’t understand why it’s a merger anyway. It should be a complete buyout. If the Sprint name were to remain, it should become an MVNO of T-Mobile. Any MVNOs of Sprint would simply be under T-Mobile moving forward. That’s my 2 cents.

        • iCrap

          Again, tmobile isn’t the issue. Sprint is. There will only be three left anyways, and even if they’re liquidated, att and Verizon will gobble up a good chounk f that spectrum. That is bad for the consumer. You gotta think big picture man.

        • Sharti24

          Bingo. Att and Verizon stood pat on the 600mhz auction. Tmobile went nuts and spent 8 billion. If Sprints 2.5ghz goes on the auction block guess who can and can’t afford it

  • vrm

    Do I sense a propaganda machine at work ?

    “only 3 carriers” cliche being drilled into the minds of the public, completely ignoring the dozens of MVNOs offering discounted plans that are far better and cheaper than what we had even 10 years ago.

    In most markets, there is only ONE utility company delivering natural gas AND electricity to homes (all their energy needs) ! No complaints there, eh ? Sure, they are regulated but they almost always have their way with setting prices – all they have to do is “work with the legislature”.

    This arbitrary “4 carriers” requirement came about from the extremely corrupt Obama administration and for that reason alone, it is baseless and should be ignored, if for no other reason. IMO, they should have articulated it differently- more as market dwindling to two carriers as Sprint was dying even then.

    • Jason Caprio

      Despite what I said below, you do make a very great point in bringing MVNOs into the mix. Cricket and MetroPCS come to mind, and while they have less perks than the networks that host them, their prices are amazing. Both of those guys offer Unlimited on a single line for $60/month. Cricket $55/month for 3mbps Unlimited.

      • vrm

        Exactly ! Apparently people forgot (or they are too young to know) the market that existed in the 90s and 2000s. It has evolved quite a bit and many players came and went. Wireless service got better and cheaper, even if it doesn’t meet the ideals of some people who, IMO are too spoiled. And all this happened long before t-mobile was even a factor in wireless and in fact, even Verizon was not a factor. Verizon didn’t have any wireless business until 10 years AFTER wireless became popular and at&t and a number of regional carriers were the ONLY providers until sprint came along ( and then nextel).

  • vrm

    Also, the proponents of four carriers conveniently ignore the fact that MOST of the internet backbone is controlled by only TWO companies- at&t and Verizon. Well ?

    Let me explain- MVNOs also kept the internet prices affordable. Same thing works for wireless carriers.

  • The Borg

    When Sprint goes bankrupt, they’re only be three carriers anyway, so why not let them merge? Either way three will be the magic number.

  • Tony Chen

    there are alot of opposition toward this merger on fcc

    • Sean sorlie

      from who exactly?

  • the martian ambassador

    The merger makes me nervous. May be better for a broadband or media company with deep pockets to buy Sprint. T-Mobile is doing well on it’s own and is continuing to take market share from AT&T and Verizon.

  • Da Big Eazy

    I believe that this only matters in the short term. What any Techie will tell you–and regular users are coming to learn–is that the only cell provided services that truly matter are Availability, Mobility, Bandwidth and Data Caps.

    Techies were among the 1st to Cut-the-Cable and techniques for doing so have slowly and consistently made it into mainstream. I would not be surprised to see a Cut-the-Cell movement take place in the form of Consolidating ISPs.

    My cell is my Mobile-ISP. Who cares about unlimited calling or texting when I get that through my app. Just give me data! How many times have you told a cable provider to “Just give me Internet?”

    I can feel that in the next few years, I will realistically be able to consolidate my ISPs. There will be a show-down between Home and Mobile ISPs. So if a merger between Sprint and TMO gets me closer to ISP convergence, then bring it on!!!

    As more people come to realize that Data is all they need, they’ll also begin to wonder as to the need to pay for multiple ISPs. Cellular Data is getting faster and lets face it, you can get it in more places than the data you pay for at home. My Mobile device is one more in the IoT.

    What should be worrisome to cellular companies is when enough consumers begin treating them as ISPs, the conversations about Internet as a Public Utility, will become that much more critical.