T-Mobile Sprint Merger: Is it Bad for Consumers?

Published on December 16, 2020

In April 2020, T-Mobile and Sprint finalized their corporate merger, which had been in the works for years.

It took the two companies nearly two years to close their $26.5 billion deal, but now, the combining of the U.S.’s third- and fourth-largest mobile carriers is officially underway.

It’s going to be a long process. T-Mobile officials have said it could take up to three years to fully migrate all of Sprint’s customers and complete the merger. In the meantime, consumers are left with a lot of questions: How will this affect their plans? Their cell phone bills? Their coverage?

The truth is that there are pros and cons to this merger, but consumers may see downsides. Here’s everything you need to know about the T-Mobile Sprint merger, and what options you have if you have a dispute about your new cell phone service.

T-Mobile Sprint Merger: What All Mobile Customers Need to Know

First, the basics. Here’s some background on the merger — what it means, why it took so long, and what to expect from T-Mobile and Sprint as they begin to combine.

Why Did T-Mobile and Sprint Merge?

Verizon and AT&T are much, much larger than either T-Mobile and Sprint, the nation’s third- and fourth-largest mobile providers before they merged. Because of that, the two companies have actually been trying to merge for a long time, arguing that it would make them better able to compete with Verizon’s and AT&T’s size and resources.

This successful merger is actually their third attempt — they tried and failed to merge first in 2014, then again in 2017. The Trump Administration and its FCC were more open to deals, which ultimately opened the door for a successful merger deal now.

Why Has the T-Mobile Sprint Merger Taken 2 Years?

In 2019, T-Mobile and Sprint received the go-ahead from the FCC and the Justice Department to merge. Federal approval came with some conditions, which we’ll talk about in more detail in a minute.

However, attorneys general from 14 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit to stop the merger, saying it would deprive consumers of choice and ultimately, drive up the price of cell service across the country.

In February, a District Court ruled in favor of the merger, and the 14 states who had filed the lawsuit opted not to appeal the decision. This made it possible for the merger to be completed in April.

What Conditions Do T-Mobile and Sprint Have to Meet?

In order for the merger to be approved, T-Mobile was required by the FCC to take certain steps. These include:

  • Building out 5G coverage to nearly all of the U.S., with a focus on bringing better coverage to rural communities. The company has been tasked with providing 5G coverage to 97% of the U.S. population within three years, and 99% within five years. In rural communities, it must achieve 85% coverage within three years, and 90% coverage within five years.
  • Offering a broadband alternative for rural Americans that will bring guaranteed speeds of at least 100 mbps to 90% of the country.
  • Selling Sprint’s prepaid mobile brand, Boost Mobile, to Dish, which will use it to launch a competing mobile carrier. T-Mobile will keep its prepaid brand, Metro.

What Does the T-Mobile Sprint Merger Mean for Existing Customers?

Of course, existing customers of both T-Mobile and Sprint have long been wondering what the merger means for them. That is the $26 billion question. If the new, merged company delivers on all its promises, customers could end up with better service, coverage, and speeds. But we won’t know if that’s the case until it happens. It could very well be years before we see the full effects of this merger.

For now, here’s a basic primer on what customers of each brand should be aware of.

What It Means for T-Mobile Customers

While the two companies technically merger, T-Mobile will be absorbing Sprint’s customers and infrastructure. That’s good news for T-Mobile customers — it basically means that nothing major should change for you. T-Mobile has promised to keep prices at their current levels for the next three years, so if you’re an existing T-Mobile customer, you can probably just sit tight, and wait to see how the merger continues to play out.

What It Means for Sprint Customers

For now, things should remain relatively stable for Sprint customers, as well. According to Sprint’s FAQ page about the merger, customers can keep their existing phones and tablets, keep using their current plans, and keep using Sprint customer service and visiting Sprint stores. None of that is going away in the near future.

However, over time, Sprint’s offerings will gradually migrate to T-Mobile. This might mean that some Sprint plans and features will remain functionally the same, but be offered as T-Mobile products, or it might mean that certain plans and features are phased out over the next few years. 

The bottom line: While there are still a lot of unknowns, Sprint customers should likely expect to need to make changes to their plans or carriers over the next few years.

FAQ: Everything You’ve Been Wondering About the T-Mobile Sprint Merger

Unfortunately, there’s just a lot we won’t know for sure about the practical ramifications of the T-Mobile Sprint merger until they play out. But here are some common customer questions, and the best answers we have so far.

Will This Create Better Wireless Service for Customers?

According to T-Mobile and Sprint, yes. The companies fought for federal approval of their merger by promising the FCC that they’d provide better mobile service to more of the country by combining their assets.

However, we know that you can’t always take corporations at their word. Opponents of the merger have argued that it sets the stage for lower quality mobile service all across the country, because customers will now have fewer choices of mobile carriers.

Will Phone Bills Be Going Up?

Not right away. T-Mobile has pledged to allow Sprint customers to stay on their current plans for now, and to keep T-Mobile plan prices steady for the next three years.

Will Phones Still Be Compatible?

Yes, for now. This may change over the next few years as T-Mobile assumes ownership of more and more of Sprint’s offerings, plans, and features. But the way the companies have planned out their transition, most people should not be affected within the average amount of time they own a phone.

Will Unlimited Plans Still Be Available?

We don’t know this yet. Sprint and T-Mobile have long been offering unlimited plans that forced Verizon and AT&T to compete. Now that they’ve become one company and there’s less competition in the mobile phone industry overall, some insiders, like the public interest group Free Press, worry that unlimited plans could be replaced by capped plans and data throttling.

“We’ll be watching to see which way things move now, but there’s a danger that unlimited plans could go away or get worse,” Matt Wood, an attorney at Free Press, told reporters.

How Are Prepaid Customers Affected?

Prepaid mobile users are, in general, the most immediately affected by the merger.

Sprint has closed down Virgin Mobile and is still in the process of migrating Virgin Mobile customers onto Boost Mobile plans.

Boost Mobile has been sold to Dish, which will maintain access to T-Mobile’s networks under the conditions of the sale for at least seven years. However, there are a lot of unknowns about Dish’s plans for expanding into mobile offerings, and what will come next.

And then there are customers of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), which are prepaid brands that use the big cell phone carriers’ networks — think Simple Mobile or Mint, both of which use Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks. As T-Mobile and Sprint complete their merger, those companies may need to rearrange their plans. They may not be able to continue operations. It’s just one more unknown that we’ll have to wait and watch play out over the coming years.

Disputes About the T-Mobile Sprint Merger? FairShake Can Help

The best-case scenario is that T-Mobile and Sprint will combine forces to create a powerhouse mobile phone company that competes with Verizon and AT&T, giving customers better service options and lower prices.

But we know that the best-case scenario isn’t necessarily what will happen. As the T-Mobile Sprint merger continues to move forward, customers are likely to run into problems and disputes — even if T-Mobile and Sprint don’t try to do anything shady (which isn’t guaranteed).

At FairShake, we can help. We specialize in helping consumers resolve complaints against big companies, putting the power back where it belongs: In your hands. If you need help — especially as the merger causes changes for mobile customers — we’re here for you. Start a claim today.

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