Telcomms

What the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Means for You

As of late last week, T-Mobile successfully acquired Sprint, becoming one company and effectively bringing the total number of major US cell carriers from four down to three. At least, for now.

If you’re currently a Sprint or T-Mobile customer, you might wonder how this merger will affect you. We reached out to the “new T-Mobile” to get answers straight from the magenta horse’s mouth.

T-Mobile claims the acquisition will foster improved coverage and data speeds for Americans, but it’s important to remember that critics say there’s no clear way to hold the carrier accountable to its promises and that higher prices may be inevitable.

So Am I on Sprint or T-Mobile?

At the moment, both brands still exist. If you’re a Sprint subscriber, you’re still using Sprint’s network and if you’re on T-Mobile, you’re using T-Mobile’s network. Sprint subscribers, just know that your carrier is now owned by T-Mobile. Eventually, the Sprint brand will fade away and T-Mobile will be the sole name you’ll see, with one set of data plans to choose from.

Will I Have to Pay More?

Part of the agreement for T-Mobile’s acquisition is that it wouldn’t raise prices for three years, so you shouldn’t see any price increases until 2023. As for what happens after, we’ll have to wait and see.

Are Sprint Phones Compatible on T-Mobile?

Sprint uses a CDMA network, whereas T-Mobile uses GSM. Historically, that meant Sprint phones don’t play well on other wireless carriers, like AT&T and T-Mobile (with several exceptions). That’s still true for the time being—buying a phone from Sprint doesn’t mean it will be able to work on T-Mobile’s network just because it’s the new owner.

T-Mobile says it’s working on a unified device portfolio in the future. Our Best Android Phones and Best Cheap Phones guides each list the wireless networks that our recommended phones are compatible with. The latest iPhones can be purchased to operate on any network, as well.

What About 5G?

Sprint owned a lot of valuable mid-band wireless spectrum, which allows for 5G service that’s faster than existing 4G LTE speeds and can traverse a good amount of distance. (It can also go through walls, which is a problem for some 5G.) T-Mobile now owns that spectrum and has already started deploying it in Philadelphia, so T-Mobile customers using a 5G phone will gradually start to see faster data speeds. This will take years, so don’t expect dramatically faster speeds soon. To benefit, you’ll also need to pony up for a new phone that supports 5G.

A large part of the acquisition’s terms surround 5G. To get the merger approved, T-Mobile had to agree to expand rural coverage with a 5G network that covers 97 percent of the US population in three years and 99 percent in six years.

What About Sprint Retail Stores?

Nothing will happen to the more than 4,000 Sprint stores across the US at the moment. T-Mobile says it is prepping its stores to serve what will soon be Sprint and T-Mobile customers. Existing subscribers to either of these carriers will soon have a “legacy” data plan until the freshly-merged T-Mobile introduces new plans.

Down the road, at least “hundreds” of Sprint’s retail stores will transferred to Dish Network.

Wait, Why Is Dish Network Involved?

The Justice Department agreed to the T-Mobile acquisition because Dish negotiated that it could become a viable fourth wireless carrier to help maintain healthy competition. That means it’s eventually going to own Sprint’s prepaid business, Boost Mobile, and will take over many of Sprint’s retail stores. It will also be able to rely on T-Mobile’s network for seven years as it builds out its own service.

I’m on Boost Mobile. What Does This Mean for Me?

Boost Mobile will be owned by Dish Network. Dish’s ownership may be finalized very soon, according to the Orange County Business Journal.

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