Original Article ( http://fsp.tw/11 )
While I am not sure of any verification from either company, there is a rumor that shown in my RSS feeds a few days ago about a possible merger between Sprint (#3), and T-Mobile (#4) to eventually compete with AT&T, and Verizon. However, if this is perfectly true, I have doubts of it’s success, at least for the near future.
Now, I am not saying that this won’t be a good thing – depending on how it pans out, but there are so many hurdles that would have to be accomplished. And I’m sure if these are addressed, this could be a good thing.
One of the first hurdles is the technology. Sprint uses iDEN/CDMA/WiMax while T-Mobile uses GSM. I also don’t see iDEN leaving anytime soon especially with the Motorola i1 that is a $350 Android 1.5 smart phone running on iDEN. CDMA is in my opinion a legacy technology, and should be phased out. This is probably going to happen with the introduction of 4G networks in the US. However, until then – CDMA is pretty dominant, and pretty much incompatible with GSM. In a matter of fact, manufacturers create CDMA only phones, and carriers have to create “world” phones that have a GSM-2G antenna for their globe travelers. As for the WiMax, it would seem that T-Mobile and the other major carriers moving to LTE. If this merger is successful, Sprint would have to drop WiMax, use it as a separate service, or convince T-Mobile to jump on WiMax. If Sprint drops WiMax, it would definitely piss off the Evo 4G owners whose one day – their super powerful drool worthy phone would be obsolete.
Next is customer relations. I have seen the Sprint stores that are in the city here, and it’s nothing to look forward too. In addition, unless you are willing to jump on the Boost bandwagon, forget about buying a phone, and service without a contract. It seems nearly impossible without signing over 2 years of your life. This means that CDMA will most likely exist for 2 years after the merger takes effect, or the carrier has to be willing to annul the contracts. Really, what carrier does that? T-Mobile on the other hand has more favorable plans if you are willing to ditch the contract, and buy the phone outright.
Next is devices, and consolidation. I will tell you right now, even with the Samsung Vibrant coming on T-Mobile today, it lacks a front facing camera which seems to be the hip thing that kids (and some adults) wants these days. The Samsung Galaxy S which is the international version of the Vibrant offers this front facing camera, and quite frankly, I could give 2 hoots about the Avatar movie, and SIMs 3 on the Vibrant with the sacrifice of the front camera. While I don’t see myself making video calls often, it is the principal of slaughtering the hardware for something that people could get anyhow. So what kind of negotiations will have to be made with manufacturers to get the more hardware friendly policy of Sprint which gives options such as some phones without a camera, and some with 2 vs. the lacking of hardware that T-Mobile has. Let’s keep in mind of the technology. Even if there was a stock of Evo 4Gs out today, and the merger magically happened today, I would not be able to use the MyTouch on CDMA, nor would I be able to use the Evo on GSM.
Next is pricing. While T-Mobile seems to have the more favorable rates, they are still beat out by Boost which is a product owned by Sprint. There is no way in the world I can walk into a T-Mobile store and say I want unlimited calling/SMS/data for $50 – $60 dollars. The best I can ever hope for is $80. This means that the company would be competing with itself and that is never good. Considering that 2009’s profits were lower than 2008, dropping $20 from their unlimited plan is not something that is going to likely happen. However, in my opinion, if this could happen, and provide reliable service, this would be serious competition from the All You Can Eat carriers like Boost, MetroPCS, and Cricket. And with T-Mobile’s more national coverage map than those carriers (Boost backed by Sprint though), this will be an attractive option indeed.
So, to recap – the hurdles of such will be technology as Sprint is CDMA, and T-Mobile GSM. This will address itself if Sprint converts to LTE (therefore upsetting Evo 4G customers), there is a good enough roll out. CDMA will simply phase out. Devices and consolidation which will address itself in LTE, but still a major issue now. The biggest 4G network right now is WiMax. So, devices like the 8320, and the 8330 (one GSM, and one CDMA) will be consolidated, and new deals most likely have to be made with manufacturers. Customer service and contracts will also have to be severely adjusted, as well as the pricing of the plans to not compete with itself.