Dish, Others Trash T-Mo-Sprint Merger

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Satellite operators and rural broadband groups are some of the voices opposing the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Most warn that going from four to three national wireless carriers means less competition and won’t help rural 5G broadband deployment. Fourteen petitions to deny the merger were filed by the FCC’s Monday’s deadline.

Dish Network is especially strident in opposing the transaction. Dish chairman and co-founder Charlie Ergen told attendees at WIA’s ConnectX, he intends to spend “at least $10 billion,” to build a national wireless network. In a more than 250-page filing, Dish tells the Commission if the deal is approved, it could hamper its ability to enter the 5G market. The company needs access to “radios, chipsets, devices, towers, crews, and backhaul. New T-Mobile will likely be spending billions of dollars on radios, chipsets and devices, making it possible for it to use its new-found market power to customize radio solutions that would be less than ideal for Dish.”

“The applicants have said that new T-Mobile plans to deploy both LTE and 5G in 600 MHz. DISH is already facing challenges to prioritize a flavor of 5G that is suitable for a new-entrant against existing larger carriers with legacy deployments such as AT&T and Verizon; with New T-Mobile’s potential future influence, the headwinds could become stronger.”

Broadband and video provider Altice says it’s “confident” in its ability to enter the wireless market in 2019, via a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) agreement with Sprint. But it has concerns “about the opportunity to expand its wireless service nationwide, and over the long term,” because T-Mobile and the new T-Mobile “have made no tangible commitments regarding meaningful support for current MVNO partners.”

The Rural Wireless Association and C-Spire say the deal reduces competition and threatens the ability of rural customers to roam. In particular, the RWA adds the new T-Mobile would “greatly exceed” whatever spectrum screen is applied by the Commission, noting that, T-Mobile “has traditionally warehoused spectrum in rural markets” and will continue to focus on urban areas with its 600 MHz LTE deployments.

AT&T took no position on the merger, other than to say U.S. carriers were working on 5G deployment before the deal was announced. AT&T adds it’s starting to upgrade cell towers with LTE-Licensed Assisted Access, “which achieves theoretical peak speeds of up to 1 Gbps.”

T-Mobile encouraged customers and vendors to support the transaction. Typical of those comments, is this one from Michael Winitsky of Staten Island: “The merger should be allowed to go through. These two companies together will give us lower monthly bills and service everywhere.” NE Colorado Cellular, doing business as Viaero Wireless, also supports the merger, saying T-Mobile has been a good roaming partner for about 20 years “and has always negotiated reasonably for rates and spectrum.”   

Comments?  Contact Leslie Stimson: [email protected]

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

August 30, 2018