A combined Sprint, T-Mobile US would lead to price hikes, 4Competition group says

The latest group to come out against the proposed mega-merger of U.S. carriers Sprint and T-Mobile US, called 4Competition, is made up of some relatively heavy-hitters in the domestic telecoms space, including Dish, C Spire, rural wireless lobbying associations and the Communications Workers of America union.

This group’s argument, focused on the consumer and workforce implications of a merger,  is not markedly different from other opposition to the deal. Some of the stakeholders, Dish and C Spire for instance, previously expressed opposition via individual filings with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Dish sees the merger as harming consumers and, as it relates to Sprint and T-Mo’s claims that approval would better position America as a 5G leader, not in service of the broader public interest. From a filing with the FCC: “The applicants’ claims in support of this merger and its chief supposed public interest benefit—the deployment of 5G—seem to be at odds with the pre-merger statements made by each company indicating that 5G deployment is both possible and anticipated…And, the facts on the ground suggest that each Applicant has the capability to deploy 5G on a standalone basis.”

Dish has its own 5G plans and earlier this year awarded RAN and core business to Ericsson. The idea is to spend $1 billion on a nationwide NB-IoT network, followed by up to $10 billion on a standalone 5G network geared toward industrial players and cable companies, according to company CEO Charlie Ergen. Dish has a significant spectrum stash that needs to be put into service lest it fall victim to use it or lose it regulations.

Some industry watchers find Dish’s plans dubious with PCMag’s lead mobile analyst taking to Twitter to call out Dish as a “bad actor who has been warehousing spectrum for years and has a bad-faith ‘plan’ to ‘build’ a de minimis network only to fulfill legal requirements…Dish is basically the Martin Shkreli of wireless spectrum, trying to figure out how to squeeze it for profit rather than make it useful to any actual humans.”

C Spire, which offers fixed and mobile services in Mississippi, highlighted issues that regional carriers who rely on roaming onto national operator networks to provide services outside of their network footprint.

From a Nov. 8 ex-parte filing with the FCC, C Spire asked that if the merger is approved there be stipulations that address concerns around roaming. “The elimination of Sprint from the marketplace as a prospective nationwide roaming partner will result in an undeniable increase in roaming rates due to decreased competition. Moreover, New T-Mobile will be in a position to deny competitive carriers an essential business input. New T-Mobile also will have little if any incentive to negotiate fair roaming agreements with regional carriers.”

Let’s also not forget about Protect America’s Wireless, a group that frames its opposition to the merger based on–bear with me–the relationship Sprint parent SoftBank has with Chinese network infrastructure vendor Huawei, which is the subject of extensive international cybersecurity scrutiny with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the U.S. blocking them from involvement in 5G builds.


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