DISH Seeks FCC Help as T-Mobile Shutdown of Sprint Network Looms

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DISH Network tells the FCC that T-Mobile is acting like an “entrenched incumbent” carrier as it celebrates the one-year acquisition of Sprint. DISH is pleading with the Commission not to allow T-Mobile to shut down Sprint’s CDMA network prematurely.

T-Mobile recently announced it plans to turn off the Sprint CDMA network on January 1, 2022. DISH says that’s “significantly sooner” than the three-year migration timeline it previously announced and such a move would strand “millions” of Boost subscribers.

As part of the terms it agreed to for regulatory passage of the Sprint transaction, T-Mobile agreed to help set up DISH as a fourth national wireless carrier. Selling the prepaid Boost business to Dish was one step in that plan, reports The Verge.

In a filing with the agency, DISH calls the move anticompetitive. It quotes T-Mobile citing the three-year timeline to the FCC and the California Public Utilities Commission. “A three-year timeline makes sense, given the complexity of this migration,” says DISH. It also notes that Verizon recently extended the shutdown of its own CDMA network (for the third time) until December 31, 2022. DISH further asserts that, according to Verizon, currently less than one percent of its customer base is still accessing the company’s 3G network, thanks to its multi-year migration effort.

In contrast, states DISH, “T-Mobile plans to shut down the entire CDMA network in just 276 days. Unfortunately, a majority of our 9 million Boost subscribers (many of whom face economic challenges) have devices that rely on Sprint’s CDMA network and will be harmed if T-Mobile prematurely shuts down that network.”

DISH says, “a forced migration of this scale under this accelerated time frame is simply not possible and will leave potentially millions of Boost subscribers disenfranchised and without cell service come January 1, 2022. This is especially the case given significant device/chip shortages that make it even more difficult to acquire compatible replacement devices prior to the shutdown.”

T-Mobile sees the situation differently, saying it’s not technically violating the agreement, according to The Verge. It says it has given DISH adequate notice of the shutdown.

T-Mobile says in a statement: “Everything we are doing here is exactly consistent with the agreement that DISH made with us a year and a half ago, and we have been very proactive and transparent about the timing for this transition with all of our MVNOs, including DISH. We gave DISH notice in October 2020 for a January 1st 2022 transition – far more than the required 6-month contractual agreement.”

T-Mobile further explains: “Our agreement with DISH is also clear that they are responsible for migrating Boost customers, just as we are responsible for migrating Sprint customers, and we are confident that DISH is already making plans to take good care of their impacted customers prior to the transition date. Given the advance notice that they received, just a small percentage of Boost customers should need to upgrade their handsets by the end of this year, and typically those customers would be supported with incentives and promotions to get their handsets upgraded.

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