The T-Mobile and Sprint merger is done and little good will come of it

T-Mobile
T-Mobile (Image credit: Android Central)

T-Mobile and Sprint are now one, at least on paper. You might have seen the news about it, along with T-Mobile CEO John Legere stepping down to do ... something and former T-Mobile COO Mike Seivert will now lead the new company that looks and feels strangely like the two old companies — a thing that isn't going to change very soon.

Of course, the victor gets to write history and T-Mobile announced the news complete with big bolded words like SUPERCHARGED! (opens in new tab) smattered about and the company pinky swears that this will be so good for everyone, including current customers of the two networks, err, now one network or the network formerly known as something or another. You know the drill: everything is good and will always be good right up until it is no longer good.

Dish Network will never have a network that competes with the likes of Verizon or AT&T. But now T-Mobile will.

I'm going to take a second and squash the biggest lie of this whole thing right now and say Dish Network isn't going to fill in the void where Sprint used to sit, and the U.S. now has three big telecom giants and a second-tier group led by US Cellular. Dish only wants to sit on the spectrum it gained and hold on until it can make a metric crapload of cash without doing anything. It might not be able to do that this time, but it will try. Number four will totally suck and if Google hitches its wagon to it, Google deserves what is coming.

More: Dish and Google could create a new wireless carrier

With that out of the way, let's look at the STUPENDOUS! announcement and cut through the crap and see what lies beneath.

T-Mobile is trying to tell us that it will spend billions of dollars "merging" (really, this is an acquisition) with Sprint and then building out a mostly new 5G nationwide network and because the company is so altruistic that prices will remain where they are right now. As proof of this, it keeps pointing to the company's former "merger" with MetroPCS. The two deals couldn't be more different from each other.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Metro was a very small and mostly prepaid carrier. There is nothing wrong with that and many Metro customers were very satisfied with the service even before T-Mobile came along. Sprint, on the other hand, is a giant telecommunication network that serves millions, yet has a network that is incomplete and in utter disarray in most places. It takes money to maintain and enlarge a network, and even with SoftBank at the helm money is something Sprint just hasn't had in a while. It's a vicious circle that could be an economics lesson — if you let things get bad enough, you'll never be able to secure the funding to turn them around.

T-Mobile Sprint merger FAQ 2020: Here's how it changes the wireless market and how it affects you

The only thing T-Mobile wants from Sprint is wireless spectrum. The customers that come along with the merger are handy and will help pay some bills, but T-Mobile could have gained that many new customers on its own in a few short years. All this is because Sprint does have some very valuable spectrum holdings that T-Mobile needs so its 5G network isn't full of holes like its initial 4G/HSPA+/LTE network was. It wants this so badly it was willing to do anything to get it, including blow smoke up all of our you-know-whats.

Rather than comparing this to the T-Mobile buyout of MetroPCS (now Metro by T-Mobile), we should be comparing it to the Sprint buyout of Nextel. And expect it to be an equally colossal disaster. Find someone who was a happy Nextel customer and ask them, there's no need to believe me. Ten years from now, we can find someone who was a happy Sprint customer and compare notes.

Sprint and T-Mobile look to for New T-Mobile

Source: New T-Mobile (Image credit: Source: New T-Mobile)

Here's how things will really go down. If you like your current T-Mobile or Sprint plan, you can keep it. Then one day when you try to activate a new phone, you'll need a New T-Mobile -compatible model and it will require a plan change. You'll get to keep things like free pizza on Tuesdays or 480p Netflix that doesn't count against a data cap, but that cheap unlimited plan that stayed unlimited even when you used an ungodly amount of data isn't going to be on the table.

Sorry Sprint customers, but the free pizza on Tuesday isn't all it is cracked up to be.

This scenario will come much sooner for Sprint customers. As T-Mobile starts to unravel Sprint's network and repurpose the spectrum, older phones will stop working and T-Mobile will lure you back on a contract plan with cheap payments and all the free candy it offers. For a while, things might say Sprint on the signs and commercials, but Sprint is already dead. T-Mobile is counting on the competition to be so overpriced that it can keep you even though you're getting less and paying more than you were before you walked in. This is how Sprint customers will be folded into the new family.

T-Mobile's current customer base will have it a little easier, simply because the company can't afford them to flock to AT&T or Verizon. But our day of reckoning will come, and I know it will because T-Mobile has done it before. I held on to my old T-Mobile plan as long as I could, but when the day came that I needed a new SIM card you can guess what happened. Goodbye old "Android data plan" and hello new T-Mobile unlimited plan that costs double.

Right now things sound rosy and we're being told that nothing will be changing any time soon, and that part, at least, is true. It takes a while for one company to completely gut another and feast on its fleshy network spectrum. Just don't expect any sort of SUPERCHARGED! experience when your day comes.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

45 Comments
  • Sprint customers will get to choose phones and not worry about a whitelist. That's pretty good. And there was never anything to disallow Sprint from "upgrading" your plan when you tried to activate a new phone.
  • I was actually one of those happy Nextel customers, who got grandfathered into my husband's plan when the company he worked for began using cell phones. They had two models to choose from. Just two. But it worked for us and we were happy. Then Sprint bought them and my bill went up without my making any changes. Okay...well, I didn't want to pay still higher prices with ATT or whoever was around, so I stayed with Sprint. While it went through several changes, some good, some not so, overall, I have little to complain about that others don't complain about with all the different carriers so was fairly happy. But now that TMobile has Sprint, I will probably go with Verizon. I have a nice, unlimited everything plan right now for two phones for $90. Since that will probably jump by $50 at a minimum, I might as well go with Verizon which has much better coverage in MY area. The whole thing just sucks...
  • This is False your current sprint plan you can keep as is tmobile is not changing anything on that and besides tmobile is cheap compared to verizion and offers unlimited Data . direct from Tmobile faq page on all of this Is my rate plan changing?
    Nope, we're not making any changes to your rate plan today. Over time, you will see additional benefits as we supercharge our network and honor our commitment to offer the same or better rate plans to our customers.
    You'll still get the benefits and award-winning customer service our customers have come to love. Do T-Mobile customers need to do anything?
    There's not a thing Sprint or T-Mobile customers need to do! For now, all customers will stay with the same Sprint and T-Mobile network, stores, and service they've been using.
    Behind the scenes, the team's working hard to bring it all together to create an amazing experience for customers of the new T-Mobile.
    Need more info for Sprint customers? Details Now on Sprints site Will my plan and benefits change? Will I need to change to a T-Mobile plan, even if it’s more expensive?
    Short Answer: Nope, we’re not making any changes to your rate plan today. Over time, you will see additional benefits as we supercharge our network and honor our commitment to offer the same or better rate plans to our customers. You’ll still get the benefits and award-winning customer service our customers have come to love.
  • I have 4 lines on an old Sprint plan, (My unlocked Pixel 3a XL and the wife and kids' iPhone XRs and 11 which were bought outright from Sprint and are (should be) unlocked. So no phone worries, we're set if we want to leave.
    I don't care about 5G, my Sprint speeds and coverage are good in my town. My concern is if T-Mobile shuts down Sprint's network and makes us use their's which I don't think is as good as Sprint's.
    I admit the Magenta Plus plan is better than my current unlimited Sprint plan (Netflix, MLB.TV, hot spot) and would save me $20 a month but I'm cautious of doing anything too soon, just in case I call T-Mobile and ask what they want to do to keep me from switching to VZW or ATT.
    Best case scenario, T-Mobile keeps Sprint's coverage (in my city) and I can switch plans.
  • If T-Mo coverage in your area is not good (and sprint's is better) they are going to mesh the networks together. They aren't going to shut down sprint and have worse coverage than they currently do. 
  • this is True they will be using combining the networks not gettuing rid of them and they are also adding more over the next 6 years and they are and cant raise prices for the next three years by law and contract or there can be hudge fees
  • I'm looking forward to becoming a T-Mobile user. Sprint's coverage is absolutely garbage, even here in Kansas City where you'd assume that it would be pretty good since this is where Sprint was based out of. Also, T-Mobile has a better selection of devices and pretty good price points and they actually give a **** about their customers. I was very happy when I first saw this news a couple years ago and I'm glad it's finally complete. Now it's just a waiting game to be an official T-Mobile user
  • And the expensive prices of a carrier is why I'm on tmobiles prepaid metropcs its pretty good I find it better then carriers anyways
  • Wow someone hates tmobile. Cry a little harder. There were no facts in your story only speculation. Yes you can look at the past but by god the Nextel Sprint deal was 15 years ago or more. Alot, and I mean alot, has changed since then. I think it's good that dish is getting involved, in your opinion it should have stayed at 4 with sprint just barley hanging on. So in your words it would have been better for sprint to stay, go bankrupt and loose every customer they had so they can go to your big 2, which has crappy service and customer care along with outrageous prices. That's smart.
  • Totally agree with you sir. Sprint was drowning in debt and Softbank was not going to invest another dime into the infrastructure. There was no other move for Sprint.
  • I just switched from Sprint (over 16 year customer!) to T-Mobile since the merger was inevitable. And actually...it is better. First, at home T-Mobile has a better implementation of wifi calling on supported unlocked phones (mine are Motorola Z3's and Z4's). Granted, that is not using either Sprint's or T-Mobile's cellular network, but weak indoors signal is not an issue at my address. Also, my battery life has soared with heavy use of wifi calling. Additionally, I can now easily use any GSM capable unlocked phone, broadening the amount of equipment available to me. Coverage in my area seems roughly the same as it was with Sprint, and better at airports (for the time I could use it and go to an airport before the COVID-19 emergency). I had one problem when porting over my number. After the port, the phone number the network thought I had was correct...but the phone number the SIM stated was still the "placeholder" number T-Mobile assigned when they shipped me the SIM. Be sure that after a port of a phone number, the SIM reported phone number is the same as the network's ported number. If it is not, they will have to send you a new SIM, which you should activate with your number through a PC browser BEFORE inserting it in your phone. The URL to use will be printed on the card holding the SIM.
  • Better call a Waaaahambulance! "Nothing good" pretty stupid statement when obviously no way you can know that yet.
  • The New T-Mobile shuttered Sprint services for rural users and senior citizens the very same day they announced the merger was final and that they were not going to do that sort of thing. That tells me all I need to know
  • They did no such thing. The sprint network has been untouched. The only thing that was shut off was the S ticker at the stock exchange.
  • Source on this please
  • The entire page is now offline so you have to use a web archive to see the program details: https://web.archive.org/web/20190315061222/https://www.pcsrefurbished.com/sales/buyInternet.aspx?product=1736 This program was killed the day the merger was finalized
  • wow.... this is the most biased piece of "news" i've seen here in a while. Really disappointing.
    As a current t-mobile customer (for about 6 months now, coming from AT&T which I was on since forever, and which sucked) i'm excited for the better coverage this is going to bring.
    Sprint customers should be happy as that company was bleeding money and on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • The good is that we can hope that we will end up with 3 instead of 2 cell phone companies.
  • Eh it might be "worse" but sprint was not a real player for years and if they did not merge 1. they were going to go bankrupt (you even mention it in your article "if you let things get bad enough, you'll never be able to secure the funding to turn them around." It could also continue to put pressure on att and verizon now that T-Mo will have the numbers to really push the big two (and hopefully the network as well). The thing is comparing a merger from 15 years ago to one now isn't really an apples to apples comparison. The wireless industry has changed so much in that time (not to mention sprint was not in the shape it currently was in post merger with T-Mo). Don't pick up your pitchfork yet, let the dust settle at least. 
  • The Sprint T-Mobile merger is fantastic news! I think it's going to be awesome.
  • nothing good is going to happen to sprint customers. but sprint was (is) the worst carrier in the entire world.
    the network is pure trash. Their customer service was worse than Comcasts. The deserve to go away. asap.
    so if this makes T mobiles (already decent) coverage better. I'm game. T-Mobile is way better in my area than sprint. nearly as good as Verizon.
  • Cry me a river Jerry. Sprint isn't a Tier 1 carrier. you know it. I know it. We all know it. Stop trying to put lipstick on that pig and tell us it isn't. Sprint is a joke and has been on a death spiral for years. TMo might have gotten to their total after the merger, but it wouldn't take just a few years. they went up 14M-ish in 2 yrs. So if Sprint has 54M, that would take close to 8 yrs, MUCH longer than "a few years." I have friends that in their house, can't get coverage with Sprint, yet I can on Tmo. So you are saying those on Sprint should just suffer? What a joke JErry. You should go work for Engadget. They like those debbie downer articles.
  • Everyone knows why this deal was made & T-Mobile was the first to let it be known. T-Mobile wanted and got Spectrum, VERY VALUABLE SPECTRUM to lay out their 5G Network. That in of itself is what made this deal fantastic for T-Mobile and their customers. Been with every Carrier, T-Mobile where I work & live has the fastest, strongest and most reliable service. THANK YOU T-Mobile, THANK YOU John Legere.
  • Sorry you lost all credibility on this article when you stated
    “I held on to my old T-Mobile plan as long as I could, but when the day came that I needed a new SIM card you can guess what happened. Goodbye old "Android data plan" and hello new T-Mobile unlimited plan that costs double.”
    Simply replacing a SIM card under a current number had/has ZERO affect on your plan.
  • Agree, I just grab extras from purchased phone boxes (assuming fit) and just call to swap. Never a mention of plan I am on. Been with T-Mobile since was Voicestream. ;)
  • I went from $30 per month for REAL unlimited data with no soft cap to the current unlimited plan because I could not get my number activated on a new sim card if I did not. T-Mobile has tried to push users off of the Android Data Plan that I got in 2008 for years. As condolence, they offered unlimited (capped at 30GB) tethering. I was originally able to avoid it because I used scissors and cut my sim card down to nano size, but it finally stopped being read by any phone and I had to take a trip to the store.
  • Unfortunately it comes down to who you deal with and the knowledge that the rep actually has. The system it’s self has no requirement when just updating the SIM card. People still have the old powertel plans from 15+ years ago with added data features, updated SIM cards in an iPhone. It sounds like you had a rep that was not fully knowledgeable.
  • There's an awful lot of angry speculation in this article...
  • Came to T mobile about four years ago after ATT just kept raising their unlimited data plan. With the Veteran's discount and a free line get a great deal on my unlimited lines. Although I use iPhone for my daily driver, I bought a McLaren 5G phone for an extra line and it has been fine in DFW and I am looking forward to adding Sprint's mid band % 5G to T mobile's low band 5G. It is all about the 5G spectrum! I know Jerry has been with t mobile a long time, but I have been a happy camper coming from ATT.
  • Sprint/Nextel is not a reasonable comparison. That merger brought together two incompatible technologies (iDEN and CDMA) and utterly failed to bring them together. This time around, Unless you're on an ancient CDMA phone (if those are even supported anymore!) you can expect it to work on the combined network from day one. In most cases, any recent Sprint phones will work better than before with expanded LTE network coverage.
    I can't speak to Sprint pricing, but I've been on T-Mobile for over a decade and it had only gotten cheaper and better in that time.
  • Sprint bought Nextel for the spectrum and didn't care what happened to the existing network or its customers. That's the same reason T-Mobile bought Sprint.
  • That's not true. The customers are valuable to T-Mobile just as much as the spectrum. Also, the phones from Sprint are compatible with TMo, so there will be very little pain in that regard. I don't think you know what you are talking about or worked for a company that has been through a merger. That MRR has huge value for TMo.
  • Totally agree with you. Nextel merger was much different than this one. The new TMo wants customers as much as spectrum.
  • Thank you Mr. Positive for the article. I'll continue on with my T-Mobile $50 plan and unlimited everything. That $50 includes taxes and junk fees.
  • I get it! Jerry hates this merger. But what advantage was there to Sprint slowly dying and going bankrupt in the next 2 or 3 years. If the options are bankruptcy or merger, I think the T-mobile merger makes a whole lot more sense. I only wish that they allowed Sprint customers to buy T-mobile phones right away. I am ready for an upgrade and want the LG V60 which of course, like has been par for the course for the last 15 years, Sprint doesn't have.
  • Jerry hates anything when he feels Republicans were involved.
  • "We now have less choice when it comes to wireless providers and there isn't even a madman in charge to entertain us." Meh, sprint was the kmart of cellphone
    Companies...yea technical we have less choice..but it was going under in about 10 years or less so...honesty no huge loss.
  • This article looses a lot of credibility when it's plastered full of ads for Verizon, not to mention that it's written by someone who at least openly admits to being an "unofficial" Verizon PR spokesperson. There was little choice for Sprint, and nothing stops ANY carrier from forcing customers to change plans to upgrade, as ALL carriers are already guilty of it. As for this, Sprint's network was pretty much in shambles due to them being unable to really pay to do ANYTHING to it. It was either let Sprint's Customers and MVNO's be absorbed into a carrier or Sprint goes bankrupt and suddenly all those customers don't have ANY connections.
  • Speaking of ads, this is the only tech site that continues to plaster ads left and right and updates so many back end links that it makes navigating the website almost impossible.
  • For me this is another win. T mobiles acquisition of Metro PC's was the first win. It switched metro from a cdma network to a gsm network. Also for the first time you could bring an unlocked phone from another network to Metro. This made my phone options much better. It also made my coverage immensely better. Price points pretty much stayed the same and you get More features with the plan. I have a 2 line Unlimited plan with Metro for $90 a month. I only see the Sprint merger/ aquisistion as another win broadens and strengthens my network and coverage even more when the dust settles. I didn't like the service I had with AT&T or phone selections. Verizon is an absolute rip off. They probably have the best coverage of all the networks. However there customer service sucks, there plans suck, and Over priced. I like the possibilities with the T Mobile network even more now.
  • Great article overall! I may see some points differently but what great discussion I've seen so far.
    Definitely a buy for their resources move sure, but picking up Sprint's millions of customers without any marketing and freebies is good economy of scale move too for T-Mo
    The Sprint Nextel deal is definitely a different comparison as someone already mentioned. Very different. Sprint could have been ok - as in other compatible suitors could have come along. It was worth rejecting the T-Mo deal as I believe another good suitor would have eventually surfaced. The nuts and bolts were essentially there, but it definitely needed a capable partner and a dumptruck of cash. Everyone will definitely be screwed by this. Except for those that maybe benefit from some coverage/service improvements. (which those costs will be spread out over the customer base eventually) I can't believe there are so many people that were for it for some reason. They already had carrier choice. Now they have less choice. The argument that Sprint would be bankrupted and everyone loses connection I think is very short-sighted and little perspective. There will be no accountability for promises T-Mo made. Just look at ATTs dealings. Prices will definitely go up within years. Sure the three are competitors but they will effectively work together to keep prices/margins high. Has happened before. Competition brought back Unlimited(not in it's truest form). Instead of excuses about little spectrum, network maintenance costs, and year over year massive data increased usage explosion, somehow Verizon and ATT found some extra space under their belt to raise it from the dead years ago. Oh wait, they were losing customers due to new competition that's why. Employee and contractor wages could go down as their is less competition in the workplace. Many will lose their jobs regardless of employee # promises by T-Mo. I don't know the future on Dish as a carrier. I do roll my eyes quite a bit at the thought of it though. I do believe this will be a big kick in the nuts to MVNOs. There has been so much plan innovation in 10 years. What a great ecosystem (from a customer's standpoint) of plan types, different methods, the coming and going of companies. Healthy. One more thing I forgot to say, when a decent network (depending on who you are and your priorities) has to fight and claw and innovate on a weekly/monthly basis with promotions and price cuts and aggressive offers - that's a good thing for customers. Who would have ever thought that you'd be able to bring your own phone and get one year of free service on a postpaid carrier (Sprint)? And many more promotions and 'trial experiments' like it. Nothing lasts forever, sure. But I hold strong knowing another right buyer could have happened.
    Look to those who pay a higher price per MB of data (Canada) and ask them how many carriers and how much competition they have. Don't discredit the article purely because of who wrote it. Consider the points. Read with a grain of salt as well. This to me, this purchase, is not an overall pro-customer move. Definitely.
  • For so many people there has only been three real options in carriers for a very long time. I've never even been into a Sprint store. Never cross shopped them with the others. I've known more people with Wal-Mart mobile service than Sprint service. I've only ever known one person to have Sprint and they hated it. Full disclosure that was back when Sprint created the walkie talkie feature on flip phones. But since his experience, it hasn't even occurred to me to even consider Sprint.
  • I'm sure there are many who are happy with Sprint and don't want change. But the reality is that this is not a large number compared to ATT, VZ, and TMo customers, and Sprint was going to be bankrupt in the near future anyways. So this merger/acquisition is making the best of a bad situation. I firmly believe that 3 more or less equal competitors is better than 2 large competitors with a third weak sister. That would have been the reality if ATT or VZ would have acquired a significant amount of Sprints' assets from the bankruptcy auction.
  • This is the fallacy, and certainly not a good reason to approve a merger of two existing postpaid carriers. Good techdirt article today describing my my earlier posted points further.
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200402/09200344221/t-mobile-merger-c... Doesn't matter if ATT/VZW are that much bigger, Sprint and MVNOs still serve a good subset of people and provide competition. Now all of that goes away.
  • I stated that this merger was in part, making the best out of a bad situation. Sprint going bankrupt (and they would have) would be much worse.