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T-Mobile's 5G network expansion leaves Sprint customers behind
Earlier this month, the T-Mobile-Sprint merger finally came to a close. We heard yesterday that T-Mobile is now expanding its 5G network using Sprint’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, in doing so, existing Sprint 5G customers will lose out on their next-gen network speeds.
According to CNET, T-Mobile is shuttering Sprint’s 5G network to fold that spectrum into its own. Sprint customers with one of Samsung’s latest Galaxy S20 devices can take advantage of T-Mobile 5G, but customers with any other 5G device cannot. That’s because most of Sprint’s handsets are not able to tap into T-Mobile’s 5G network.
The lack of Sprint device support on T-Mobile’s network also stems from the fact that Sprint’s existing 5G infrastructure is incompatible with T-Mobile’s. T-Mobile has been using Sprint’s 2.5GHz licenses to build out its own network, but a large portion of Sprint’s current implementation needs to be converted entirely.
T-Mobile already deployed this mid-band 5G network in Philadelphia, and New York is next on the company’s list. It will take about three years for T-Mobile to tackle all nine of Sprint’s 5G compatible cities, but one by one, these customers will lose out on the network they forked out big money to take advantage of.
What options do Sprint customers have?
T-Mobile is planning to offer a series of deals to encourage existing Sprint 5G device owners to upgrade to the Galaxy S20 series. The offers vary depending on each Sprint customer’s existing plans and devices. People who own the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, or the LG V50 can get a Galaxy S20 for as low as $31.67 per month with a new 18-month contract. Customers who own an HTC 5G Hub can get either a $12.50 per month credit or a one-time $300 credit depending on if they got the device on an installment plan or if they purchased it outright.
Though these are decent deals, it doesn’t change the fact that these customers are getting the short end of the stick with this merger. The Galaxy S10 5G went for at least $1,299 at launch, which is $300 more than the S10 Plus’ starting launch price. Sure, the S10 5G offers more than just 5G connectivity over its Plus counterpart, but 5G plays a massive part in that premium price tag.
We have yet to hear how this will impact MVNOs — such as Google Fi — that utilize Sprint’s 5G network. We expect these customers will also lose out on 5G connectivity without the proper devices, but we don’t know how else they may be affected.