Updated on December 10, 2021
On Wednesday, T-Mobile finalized its merger with Sprint, reducing the number of major mobile companies in the US from four to three (AT&T, Verizon, and the newly merged T-Mobile/Sprint). The merged company will go by “T-Mobile”; to get the merger approved, the cellular company had to make a few concessions. A big one is T-Mobile selling its prepaid subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile to Dish, who can use T-Mobile’s cellular network for the next seven years. Government regulators hope this will allow Dish to become a new fourth national cellular company.
The merger was initially supposed to be finished by late 2019, but objections from several parties and more than a dozen states (most notably California) pushed the merger’s date back.
RIP Sprint (as an independent service)
After using prepaid flip phones in the 2000s (on Virgin Mobile), late in the decade I bought my first smartphone, a Palm Pre. The Pre was bought on contract through Sprint, who has a more prominent presence in the Midwest, where I lived at the time. I stayed with Sprint through the early 2010s, before moving (eventually) to T-Mobile, who I stayed with for years. A year ago, I switched from T-Mobile to their prepaid subsidiary, Metro; as far as I can tell, Metro’s not being sold or changing with this merger.
Besides my usual feelings about large mergers, the fact Dish is being encouraged to become a fourth major cellular service raises the question: what’s the point of this merger?
If the feds really wanted four major cellular carriers, they could’ve kept everything as is, rather than allowing for a combined Sprint/T-Mobile and Dish, and hoping they’re a match for AT&T/Verizon. And again, AT&T is already excessively large as it is—if the federal government really wanted to help, they wouldn’t have allowed Ma Bell to buy WarnerMedia in the first place.