For T-Mobile — 5G Connectivity Means that No One is Left Behind

By Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile USAugust 09, 2021

T-Mobile has long believed that no American should be left behind when it comes to connectivity, and that has never been more relevant than now — as we embark on the 5G Era.

I believe that connectivity is more essential today than ever, and that this 5G evolution is not just important, it’s urgent. Every single day across the country Americans increasingly depend on their ability to connect to the internet for communication, work, job searches, healthcare, family, schooling and more. It is absolutely essential that no American is left on the wrong side of the Digital Divide, regardless of their economic circumstance, and regardless of whether they live in an urban or rural area.     

True to our Un-carrier DNA, all of us here at T-Mobile are working hard to finally bridge the Digital Divide and bring 5G to everyone. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to fully participate in today’s data and information-fueled society, and our merger with Sprint was critical to achieving that goal. The unique combination of assets from our merger is exactly what is accelerating a nationwide 5G rollout that consumers across the country will benefit from. The governmental decision makers who reviewed and approved our merger with Sprint understood the consumer needs for faster and better networks and approved the combination specifically with their welfare in mind — because consumers (and the American economy) are the ones who will really win with this superior technology.

T-Mobile has fully embraced our commitments to the government to make 5G for All a reality, and we are rapidly building the broadest and deepest 5G network in the country — including rural areas. We are also making 5G available at no extra charge across our major brands, while funding new 5G handsets for those that need them. Our entire team is working overtime to bring together the Sprint and T-Mobile networks and we remain committed to bringing our 5G network to life on schedule. Ultimately, as we promised the agencies, we will rapidly build out a network that covers 99% of the country, including over 90% of rural America, with high-speed 5G mobile broadband service, as well as provide 5G-based Home Internet service to millions of households that currently have no broadband service or meaningful provider options. And because this is both important and urgent, we plan to get there on time.

Part of this revolutionary network buildout includes the sunsetting of old 2G and 3G technologies, to make room for sufficient 4G and 5G capacity and coverage to support all customers. This evolution is a natural change as each decade brings innovation to the market for consumers. At T-Mobile we remain fully committed to ensuring that all our customers, no matter their financial situation or geographic location, have access to the latest 5G technology at no extra charge. Relegating customers to outdated technology is like treating them as second-class citizens — and that is not who T-Mobile is. No one should be left on outdated technology in the 5G era. 

As you may have heard, in a recent letter from the DOJ addressed to both DISH and T-Mobile, retiring outdated CDMA technology in a manner that ensures no customer is left behind is also important to policymakers. We could not agree more — and we are fully committed to moving to the latest technology and bringing all customers along to superior service at a great price. For the CDMA customers who have not experienced faster 4G/5G service, being on that antiquated network is equivalent to being on dial-up internet access years ago. Frankly, it’s unacceptable. We have been working on transitioning our Sprint CDMA customers for months and are executing on our plan to upgrade customers to new 5G phones for free and by offering equivalent (or better) service plans at the same (or lower) prices. We’ve successfully accomplished technology transitions like this before, and we know what it takes — a clear focus on what customers want, a plan to make this upgrade easy for them, and a commitment to making it a reality.    

By contrast, our friends at DISH have been dragging their feet in getting their customers upgraded to the superior 4G/5G world. As we prepare to sunset the legacy Sprint CDMA network next year and move customers onto a network that will provide dramatically better connectivity and 911 services (and a variety of other customer benefits), DISH has not done nearly enough to upgrade its Boost CDMA customers. I find this both disappointing and unacceptable, and frankly so should Boost customers. DISH needs to set aside its own short-term financial self-interests and live up to its own commentary by investing in helping its customers make the move to a current technology. As the DOJ letter makes clear, DISH needs to join us in pursing all available avenues to prevent a loss of service to its CDMA customers.  

Listen, this is a manufactured crisis, orchestrated by DISH, and it is about money, not customers. If DISH was really concerned for customers, they would simply take real action and get their customers new phones on time, before the network upgrade happens, just as T-Mobile is doing for affected Sprint customers. It’s that simple. That they continue to refuse to do more to upgrade their customers, denying a great many customers the benefit of more advanced networks at this critical time for connectivity in our society, is indefensible. So rather than defend it, they point fingers at T-Mobile. The good news? Dish still has plenty of time if they get after this more earnestly now.

The only thing DISH has to supply is effort. For example, it needs to offer its CDMA customers truly compelling upgrade offers, such as free 4G/5G handsets, and make sure those offers are clearly and proactively communicated to every customer at the time of their monthly payment — in stores, and via text messaging and voice messaging. We’ve given DISH plenty of runway and significant assistance to help get its CDMA customers upgraded. We’ve even provided DISH with a detailed action plan based on our own experience with the Metro PCS CDMA transition, which if followed by them, will ensure a fast and smooth transition. Make no mistake here, this is a plan that DISH can still implement and complete on time and leaving no customer behind.     

T-Mobile will not leave our customers behind, and if DISH won’t take care of its customers, we are already offering to do it ourselves. Just a couple of weeks ago we launched one of the most exciting prepaid offers in our history, including free 5G phones on us — to help customers like those at Boost, and other providers, get onto more advanced and reliable technology. As with T-Mobile’s offers to its customers, Boost customers should get a better network experience and a new or upgraded device without paying more, because a transition like this should not be a financial hardship for consumers. 

Make no mistake, DISH is well positioned to do the right thing. They have a roadmap from us, they have their own significant know-how, and there is still more than enough time to ensure that no customer is left behind. The Digital Divide will someday be a memory and I encourage the entire team at DISH to put their vast resources, talent, and skillset to use with all the tools we’ve provided and join us in bringing our respective customers into the modern era of wireless connectivity without delay. After all, it’s what we both signed up for when we created this partnership — and it’s what those customers deserve.