T-Mobile and Sprint commit to 5G buildout and divesting Boost Mobile, FCC Chairman recommends deal be approved


This week is beginning with some big news regarding T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger.

T-Mobile today confirmed that it’s made a few commitments to the FCC with relation to its merger. Those include mobile 5G and home broadband deployments, the promise to divest Boost Mobile, a commitment to not raise prices. When it comes to 5G, T-Mo says it will cover 97 percent of the U.S. population with 5G on low-band spectrum and 75 percent of the population with 5G on mid-band spectrum within three years of the merger’s close. This will result is nearly two-thirds of Americans getting speeds of 100Mbps or higher, says T-Mo.

Another commitment from T-Mobile is that it will cover 85 percent of rural America waith 5G on low-band spectrum within three years of the merger’s close, with that number growing to 90 percent in six years. The carrier adds that it intends to get speeds of 100Mbps or higher to 99 percent of the U.S. population in six years and 50Mbps or higher to 99 percent of the population, and it says that it plans to verify those speeds with drive tests.

When it comes to in-home broadband, T-Mobile has committed to market its service to 9.6 million eligible households, at least 2.6 million of which will be rural within three years of the merger’s close. Within six years of the merger closing, T-Mobile intends to market its in-home broadband to 28 million eligible households, 5.6 million of which will be rural.

T-Mobile also pledged to sell off Sprint’s Boost Mobile prepaid business if its merger is approved. T-Mo says it will find a “serious, credible, financially capable and independent buyer” and that the new Boost will have “attractive wholesale arrangements” that include a six-year wholesale MVNO agreement. T-Mobile plans to find a buyer for Boost and submit a new MVNO agreement to the FCC within 120 days of the merger’s close, subject to two 30-day extensions.

Finally, T-Mobile has reitereated its commitment to pricing post-merger. The new T-Mobile will offer “the same or better rate plans at the same or better prices for three years”, including 5G.

T-Mobile says it will submit annual reports regarding its progress in meeting its 5G and in-home broadband rollouts. For its three-year and six-year commitments, T-Mo plans to put together a report that includes data from drive tests, polygon coverage shapefiles, population and household coverage figures, site lists, marketing figures, and executive certifications.

In response to T-Mobile and Sprint’s commitments, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has recommended that it be approved by the FCC:

“In light of the significant commitments made by T-Mobile and Sprint as well as the facts in the record to date, I believe that this transaction is in the public interest and intend to recommend to my colleagues that the FCC approve it. This is a unique opportunity to speed up the deployment of 5G throughout the United States and bring much faster mobile broadband to rural Americans. We should seize this opportunity.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr also announced his support of the merger. “I support the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint because Americans across the country will see more competition and an accelerated buildout of fast, 5G services,” Commissioner Carr explained, adding that the deal’s commitments are “verifiable and enforceable” and that T-Mobile’s commitment to rural 5G “will help close the digital divide.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel isn’t quite as keen on the deal. “We’ve seen this kind of consolidation in airlines and with drug companies. It hasn’t worked out well for consumers,” Comissioner Rosenworcel tweeted today. “But now the FCC wants to bless the same kind of consolidation for wireless carriers. I have serious doubts.”

Getting support for the merger from the FCC Chairman is a big deal for T-Mobile and Sprint, but the deal isn’t done quite yet. The Department of Justice is still reviewing the merger, and DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim recently said that he hadn’t made up his mind on the deal.


UPDATE: FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly has come out in support of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger:

Sources: T-Mobile, New T-Mobile,  FCC

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  • vrm

    T-mobile has agreed to pay “significant” fines in the event those numbers are not met, and will keep paying them until the targets are met. So they are literally putting their money where their mouth is- wonder how much those fines are and if there are separate amounts for each target.

  • Acdc1a

    I’m excited for this to be over…one way or the other.

  • Jay Holm

    Just do it already, sheez, this is dragging!!!!! The Disney/Fox merger took 18 months…..

    • Francisco Peña

      More media companies than cellular.

      • MisterListerSir

        Are you counting all the ones Disney owns separately?

  • MisterListerSir

    Looking forward to this. Joined T-Mobile just before they started the whole UnCarrier thing and while some of their moves haven’t been completely UnCarrier-like, my service, my cost, and the benefits I get have done nothing but gotten better since I joined.

    T-Mobile could do a lot with Sprint’s customers and spectrum.

  • Derek

    I don’t like mergers and was against this in the beginning, but as a Sprint customer, I can say firmly that their service has gotten progressively worse. The customer service is worse then ATT’s (and I didn’t think that would ever be possible). Im ready for this merger to happen so I can be part of t-mobile.

  • SpaceGho5t

    I know it would take awhile but if it gets approved, after the merger is complete, would our phones simply start accepting the Sprint LTE bands? Or would we need a new sim card?? Probably a stupid question lol. I know alot of phones now a days have the radios for it already.

    • Robert Roll

      you wont need a new sim card as long as the phone supports the LTE bands … and they allow it on there end

    • KMB877

      Most of the non-Sprint phones on the American market can’t use Sprint LTE bands.
      Especially band 26 and 41.
      Probably band 25 theoreticaly can be used, but I don’t think T-mobile will write and release special software.

      • none

        Some unlocked phones(like iPhones and OnePlus), can use all Sprint LTE bands, AND T-Mobile ones.

        All that T-Mobile needs to do is send a firmware update to the towers to identify them as T-Mobile towers. Maybe give people new SIM cards as well…

        In fact, go on GSMArena’s “Phone Finder”, select 4G bands 2,4,5,12,25,26,41, and see 98 phones available that will work on the combined Sprint/T-Mobile network. Add bands 66 and 71 to that, and the number drops to 23 phones though. Take band 66 away but leave 71, and the number rises again to 50.

        So, depending on how you view define full network support, the number could be anywhere between 23 and 98 phones that will work on both LTE networks at once.

        If you only want partial support, it gets even better, only want 2,4,5,12,and 41, and the number of supported phones rises to 171. If you want 2,4,5,12,25 and 41, there are 100 phones supported.

      • Robert Roll

        most of the newer phones build today the hardware is identical across the board its just a question of the firmware that is loaded onto the phone AT&T? T-Mobile Verizon Sprint or the unlocked version…. i do know the iPhone XS supports all of Sprints LTE bands and T-Mobiles .. and i know my T-mobile S9+ does in fact suport LTE 25 26 and 41.. on an Android device type *#2263# (AT&T locks this out) you can see which LTE bands your phone supports just don’t disable stuff unless you know what your doing

        • KMB877

          The problem isn’t related to the motherboard or processor, or modem… The problem is related to antennas. An antenna is specially designed and build for a certain frequency. A phone has multiple antennas inside.

          Sprint is the only one using LTE on 850 MHz and 2’500 MHz. Also, T-mobile is the only one provider using 600 MHz.
          Several phones have not enabled several bands for pricing reasons (you can have enabled band 12/700 MHz and NOT have enabled band 13/700 MHz); can;t be enabled by software updates. This is a whole different subject, I’ll not explain all details here.

          Very fewer phones have all this bands enabled from the factory (iPhone, OnePlus, Axon 7, BB…) and sold as unlocked.

    • Francisco Peña

      They will more than likely be required to get new phones after some date.

  • NardVa

    I’m all for the merger but when has companies merging ever resulted in lower prices for the consumer? History has shown us that prices always go up. That’s the reality of it.

    • (J²)

      That’s because the companies typically doing the acquiring usually have no interest or intentions on doing whats best for consumers. Finally, T-Mobile a customer with a track record of fighting for customers is the one acquiring a company.

      If you were breaking all the rules and pissing off customers before, why would that change once you’ve bought another company? It doesn’t.

  • CarlKL

    The longer this drags on, the more Sprint suffers. All this uncertainty is not good for their -sinking- business. Let alone getting new customers.

    • Jay Holm

      Umm, Sprint has been suffering for nearly a dozen years, since the Nextel merger, nothing new…

  • Nick Plaster

    Anyone know how RCS will be adopted? Isn’t Sprint already connected to the JIBE network with Google?

  • Sayahh

    What’s going to happen to Virgin?

    • Francisco Peña

      She got popped.

  • Francisco Peña

    I’m fine with this. as of now, you have a 1A and 1B carrier (VZW/ATT) and then 2 (Tmo) and 3 (Sprint) and the rest of the mvnos.

    Merging Tmo and Sprint will put them in the same league as VZW/ATT and can better compete. If they continue with the strong desire to be #1 and offer lower prices and better deals (Tmo is the only one with positive gains I believe in post paid), then the toher two will be forced to match. Normally, yes, most merges aren’t that great, but in this case, i think ti will work out for quite some time.

  • frankinnoho

    This deal needs to die. Sprint needs 5G like MacDonalds needs caviar. What Sprint needs is to sell off assets like spectrum they can’t use to pay off debt and refocus on their low cost customers. Sprint should spin off its fiber business, sell off the 2.5 ghz spectrum it will never be able to use, then focus on its own customers and their very real, if somewhat limited needs.

    T-Mobile needs to get into TV like GM needs to get into the PC market! T-Mobile needs spectrum, not Sprint. T-Mobile has been ignoring their own customers as well, and speed and service is suffering. And Sprint’s low budget, no credit customers will not help the bottom line, either.

    5G is the biggest smoke and mirror act in ages! It may be useful in shopping malls and stadiums, but in the wild it’s looking to be no more useful than WiMAX. Possibly useful for fixed broadband in suburban and lightly urbanized zones, frustratingly unreliable everywhere else. This is the only meaningful argument for a merger, and it’s crap.

    Let the the deal die.

    • none

      Sprint needs 5G like Tesla needs a mass market 200+ mile range electric car. It’s the only way both companies will survive.

      T-Mobile needs to get into TV like insurance companies want safer cars. It’s in their best interest(T-Mobile makes more money by expanding into a market that’s ripe for disruption. Insurance companies make money by advocating for safer cars that won’t suffer as much damage in an accident)

      5G, running on the same bands as LTE, will offer 30% greater performance with the same spectrum. It’s just physics, a 600MHz signal will, under the same environmental conditions, and same transmitting power, will always travel the same distance, no matter how it’s modulated or what data you transmit.

      • frankinnoho

        Sprint needs 5G like Tesla needs a mass market 200+ mile range electric car.
        T-Mobile needs to get into TV like insurance companies want safer cars.

        5G, running on the same bands as LTE, will offer 30% greater performance with the same spectrum. It’s just physics, a 600MHz signal will, under the same environmental conditions, and same transmitting power, will always travel the same distance, no matter how it’s modulated or what data you transmit.

        OMG! Sprint is not Tesla! Even having the two names in the same sentence is an absurdity.

        One is a company with a clear vision, excellent products and aggressive leadership. The other is a failed has-been whose leadership is only interested in performing a “pump-and-dump” to bailout stockholders.

        • CAL_08

          You’re missing the point. Sprint won’t be around if they don’t merge. They can’t take care of their customers as it is so how will they gain customers with antiquated tech? You’re also advocating they sell off their assets they would need to be competitive in the future should the deal not be approved. You’re suggesting a lose lose situation for Sprint is their best case scenario?

        • frankinnoho

          No. Sprint’s customer base is not a market for advanced communication technology. Their customers are low cost, no credit check, easy term seekers who won’t be going into Verizon anytime soon for $100/month service and credit checks. They’re kinda stuck with Sprint, and Sprint is stuck with them.

          That said, it could be quite lucrative. If they better managed what the have they could be the Walmart of telecoms. If they insist upon being more, THAT’S lost lose for Sprint.

    • Eric A

      If 5G is so irrelevant, why are Verizon and AT&T racing to build 5G networks

      • frankinnoho

        Are they? They’re advertising the hell out of it, but how many operational markets are out there? How many usable phones are out there? I suspect 5G will be in “test” deployment for quite sometime.