T-Mobile and Sprint’s network future in 3 easy steps

Now that Sprint and T-Mobile’s proposed merger is up and running again, the two operators are revealing many more details about what their combined networks would look like. Even before the merger is finalized, they’re embarking upon a roaming deal that would give Sprint customers access to T-Mobile’s far-reaching and speedy LTE network. Once — and if — the deal closes, Sprint’s CDMA technology will go the way of the dodo. And in the longer term, T-Mobile and Sprint plan to combine spectrum resources to build a formidable 5G network. In a guest column for Wireless Week, OpenSignal CEO Brendan Gill weighed in on each of these network steps and the possible repercussions for consumers on the “New T-Mobile”.

The first step, the roaming deal, is particularly intriguing as T-Mobile has committed to honoring it regardless of whether the merger goes through. But as Brendan explains, T-Mobile gets plenty of benefit from the roaming agreement as well:

“From T-Mobile’s perspective, it’s a very savvy move. Faster speeds and greater 4G reach should increase customer satisfaction on the Sprint network in the near term, reducing churn during the merger period and ensuring it is a more valuable asset by the time it becomes part of the New T-Mobile. Also, once the merger is complete, the combined operator will have to ask many Sprint customers to upgrade their phones. It’s much easier to make that ask if Sprint’s customers have a positive opinion of their service.”

The next step will occur after the deal’s closure. The switch-off of Sprint’s CDMA network will reveal a treasure trove of airwaves. Brendan wrote:

“T-Mobile would almost certainly plow all of Sprint’s newly vacated 2G and 3G spectrum into new LTE-Advanced networks, combining it with T-Mobile’s own LTE airwaves, which already spans three, and soon four, frequency bands. The result could be 4G networks with double, and in some regions triple, the capacity T-Mobile has today.”

The final step revolves around T-Mobile and Sprint’s long-term 5G plans. As T-Mobile puts it, the combined operator will be able to make use of spectrum at multiple frequency bands to build a 5G network both “broad and deep.” Brendan, however, points out that the plan is big on the “broad” but a bit light on the “deep”:

“The operators have identified two bands for their initial 5G rollout: T-Mobile’s 600 MHz holdings and Sprint’s 2.5 GHz airwaves. Neither band, however, will support the punch-in-the-face speeds that the industry has been promising for 5G. … the really big-ticket speeds will have to wait until 5G makes its way into the millimeter airwaves. In those high frequency bands, massive amounts of spectrum and a complete revamping of current wireless technologies await.”

Be sure to check out Brendan’s full article on Wireless Week, and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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