After a courtship that lasted longer than the last three seasons of The Bachelorette, T-Mobile and Sprint have finally made their union official. The boards of both companies have agreed to merge, and assuming that the government doesn’t stand in the way (that’s a pretty big if!), Sprint and T-Mobile customers are going to have to stop making fun of each other.
But it’s not just the CEO that’s going to change. Merging two multi-billion-dollar companies that have a combined 127 million customers is undoubtedly going to bring about all sorts of changes over the next few years. While the bulk of the details are still left to be revealed, here’s what we know will change for customers.
RIP T-Mobile, long live New T-Mobile
According to the press release announcing the merger, it seems that Sprint’s branding will slowly vanish, and the new company will be called “New T-Mobile,” or more likely just T-Mobile. Both companies were keen to use the “Un-Carrier” branding that’s associated with T-Mobile in reference to the company’s 5G plans, and John Legere — who might as well be T-Mobile’s official mascot — will remain as CEO. The move makes sense, since T-Mobile’s brand is more recognizable and more liked than Sprint’s branding.
For the next year or two, you’re still going to see Sprint-branded stores and talk to Sprint employees. Merging the two networks will happen, but it all takes time.
Network merging will take years
The timeline T-Mobile laid out is that Sprint customers will be migrated to Sprint’s network “over the course of three years,” according to Washington Post reporter Brian Fung. That timeline lines up with how major network mergers have gone in other countries over the years, including when T-Mobile UK merged with Orange UK to form EE. In that instance, it took around a year for customers of each network to be able to roam onto the other’s network, and full integration took two years after that.
Some phones won’t be compatible
Because of differences in the cellular technologies and bandwidths between different devices, some Sprint phones won’t work on T-Mobile’s network, and vice versa. This likely won’t be a huge problem — full integration will take years, and people typically only keep smartphones for two years, so this shouldn’t be a huge issue.
If you want to check if your Sprint device would work on T-Mobile’s network, however, you can check device compatibility using T-Mobile’s port-in checker here.
Yes, prices will probably go up
T-Mobile and Sprint are going to lengths to explain that the Un-carrier mission won’t change, and that actually, synergies between T-Mobile and Sprint will lower costs and thus prices. But history tells us it likely won’t work out that way.
With T-Mobile and Sprint merging, that takes the number of wireless networks down from four to three. T-Mobile claimed on its conference call today that it really has eight competitors, but that includes companies like Comcast that buy service from Verizon or AT&T. In reality, the wireless industry is already highly concentrated, and merging its two smallest players just makes things worse.
When it comes to pricing, things are even worse. Sprint and T-Mobile have been aggressively competing on price for the last few years in an effort to attract new customers and grow their subscriber base. Merging both companies doesn’t just shrink the number of competitors; it removes all competition from the lower-end postpaid wireless industry.
Don’t believe me? Just look at Canada, which only has three nationwide carriers. It has some of the highest prices for cell service in the developed world, and all those things we’ve learned to enjoy thanks to T-Mobile, like unlimited data or off-contract devices, simply don’t exist.