T-Mobile successfully acquired Sprint as of April 1, becoming one company and effectively bringing the total number of major US cell carriers from four down to three. At least for now.
If you’re currently a Sprint or T-Mobile customer, you might wonder how this merger will affect you. We reached out to the “new T-Mobile” to get answers straight from the magenta horse’s mouth. T-Mobile claims the acquisition will foster improved coverage and data speeds for Americans, but it’s important to remember that critics say there’s no clear way to hold the carrier accountable to its promises and that higher prices may be inevitable.
Updated on April 21: We’ve added new details, like how Sprint customers can soon access T-Mobile’s LTE network.
So Am I on Sprint or T-Mobile?
At the moment, both brands still exist. If you’re a Sprint subscriber, you’re still using Sprint’s network and if you’re on T-Mobile, you’re using T-Mobile’s network. Sprint subscribers that are in an area where Sprint doesn’t have LTE coverage will automatically connect to T-Mobile’s LTE network (the vice versa is not true if you’re on T-Mobile) within weeks. Eventually, the Sprint brand will fade away and T-Mobile will be the sole name you’ll see, with one set of data plans to choose from (potentially this summer).
Will I Have to Pay More?
Part of the agreement for T-Mobile’s acquisition is that it wouldn’t raise prices for three years, so you shouldn’t see any price increases until 2023. As for what happens after, we’ll have to wait and see. If you’re worried about billing issues during the transition, T-Mobile says billing will continue as normal though you may see updated branding soon.
Are Sprint Phones Compatible on T-Mobile?
Sprint uses a CDMA network, whereas T-Mobile uses GSM. Historically, that meant Sprint phones don’t play well on other wireless carriers, like AT&T and T-Mobile (with several exceptions). That’s still true for the time being—buying a phone from Sprint doesn’t mean it will be able to work on T-Mobile’s network just because it’s the new owner.
T-Mobile says it’s working on a unified GSM device portfolio in the future so that any new phone will work on the new T-Mobile’s full network. Our Best Android Phones and Best Cheap Phones guides each list the wireless networks that our recommended phones are compatible with. The latest iPhones can be purchased to operate on any network as well.
What About 5G?
Sprint owned a lot of valuable midband wireless spectrum, which allows for 5G service that’s faster than existing 4G LTE speeds and can traverse a good amount of distance. (It can also go through walls, which is a problem for some 5G signals, like millimeter wave.) T-Mobile now owns that spectrum and has already started deploying it in Philadelphia and soon in New York. T-Mobile and Sprint customers using a 5G phone will gradually start to see faster data speeds. This rollout will take years, so don’t expect dramatically faster speeds soon. To benefit, you’ll also need to pony up for a new phone that supports 5G.
Sprint subscribers using the Samsung Galaxy S20 (or the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra) will be able to connect to T-Mobile’s existing 5G network by late April. You’ll need to download a software update to connect.
A large part of the acquisition’s terms is about 5G. To get the merger approved, T-Mobile had to agree to expand rural coverage with a 5G network that covers 97 percent of the US population in three years and 99 percent in six years.
What About Sprint Retail Stores?
Nothing will happen to the more than 4,000 Sprint stores across the US at the moment. T-Mobile says it is prepping its stores to serve what will soon be Sprint and T-Mobile customers. Existing subscribers to either of these carriers will soon have a “legacy” data plan until the freshly merged T-Mobile introduces new plans.
social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/t-mobile-sprint-merger-guide