sprint+tmobileTwo dozen entities, including several broadband associations, are stepping up their T-Mobile Sprint merger opposition, sending a letter last week to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and to a Department of Justice official arguing that the proposed merger would harm rural areas and reduce wireless competition.

Most of the entities signing the letter to the FCC and DOJ are in the 4Competition Coalition, an alliance formed to oppose the merger. That includes all the broadband associations that signed the letter: NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, the Rural Wireless Association (RWA), the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and INCOMPAS, which represents competitive carriers.

Other entities that are in the coalition and that signed the letter include the Communications Workers of America, DISH Network, broadband advocacy group Next Century Cities, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which advocates for municipal broadband networks, among others.

 T-Mobile Sprint Merger Opposition
T-Mobile and Sprint have said that if allowed to merge, they would deploy fixed wireless service to boost the broadband speeds available in rural areas. But according to the letter filed by the 24 entities, the merger threatens to “undermine the services that rural Americans currently enjoy.”

The letter argues, for example, that Sprint currently “stands out for its willingness to wholesale its network to rural wireless carriers – making roaming services possible for their customers” but goes on to say that T-Mobile has shown no interest in such partnerships. Another argument made in the letter is that “the merged parties’ spectrum would not be particularly well suited for rural coverage.”

That comment appears to reference Sprint’s vast spectrum holdings in the 2.5 GHz band. That band is considered mid-band spectrum, meaning it provides better range than high-frequency spectrum but less range than low-frequency spectrum. The latter is often preferred for rural areas because it can minimize the cellsite investment required.

The 4Competition Coalition website includes links to a range of research filed with federal entities in opposition to the merger, and some of the research findings are summarized in the letter, which argues, for example, that the merger would result in price increases exceeding 15% “in many cases” and that the merged company would control more than 50% of the prepaid wireless market, likely generating price increases for low-income Americans.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that DOJ antitrust enforcement staff had said the Sprint T-Mobile merger was unlikely to be approved as currently structured. The report was based on comments from unnamed “people familiar with the matter.”

T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded on Twitter, commenting that “the premise of this story” was “simply untrue.” He added that: “Out of respect for the process, we have no further comment. This continues to be our policy since we announced our merger last year.”

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4 thoughts on “T-Mobile Sprint Merger Opposition: Broadband Associations, Others Say It Will Harm Rural Areas

  1. Those "services that rural Americans currently enjoy" are pathetic in comparison to what the post-merger T-Mobile would offer. Those services include dial-up internet access that is all some areas can get, and ridiculously slow DSL from many rural phone providers. One land-line carrier here has even done away with their DSL service completely, claiming they would replace it with a cellular-based fixed-wireless service "soon". Well, that soon has been 2 years now and those folks are still waiting. I say full steam ahead on the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. T-Mobile has been very aggressive in the past few years, we now have Band 71 service everywhere in this part of the state from them while Sprint never built anything at all even though they own 2.5Ghz everywhere. I am sure T-Mobile would actually put that spectrum to use around here and finally offer those rural residents some decent internet access. These small telecoms had their chance but they never offered anything worth buying, nor did they ever upgrade what they did do.

  2. I also agree wholeheartedly! Only now are the so-called "Rural advocate" naysayers coming out of the wordwork to oppose the t-Mobile/Sprint Merger. Where have they been for the last 20+ years to complain about how little both Verizon and AT&T have done to improve internet speed in rural areas. Now, when T-mobile wants to become as big as Verizon and ATT&T( through the merger with Sprint) where they can actually compete with them on the same level and implement higher speed internet service throughout rural America; now they say that this will "lower competition". Poppycock! They are simply scared of losing even more subscribers everywhere than they have been over the last 5 years.

  3. Cellular-based fixed wireless is the only economical method available right now to get internet access out to those in truly rural areas, where it is too expensive to fun fiber for miles in order to pick up a few homes. Cellular infrastructure deployment and density has now gotten to the point where a lot of rural areas are covered with signal from at least one carrier. Microwave can easily be used as a back-haul method to get data out to more remote cell sites, T-Mobile is doing that already and it works just fine. AT&T and Verizon don't do that as much, still insisting on running fiber to each cell site, which costs too much to be widely used, which (fortunately for them) bolsters their contention that covering rural America is "too expensive". They are coming around just a bit, I noted a microwave link at an AT&T site the other day. T-Mobile already has the home equipment ready for cellular-based fixed wireless, it is being used in parts of the country right now. Lets get on with it!

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