4 Million Sprint Customers Are Now on Our Network-news

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Sprint customers are having a better experience on the T-Mobile network, but it’s going to be quite a while until the two networks are truly merged, according to top T-Mobile executives who spoke at the Citi Global TMT West conference yesterday.

“North of 20% of Sprint users are on the T-Mobile network,” says T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray.

He estimates that’s a little more than 4 million customers, and describes “on the T-Mobile network” as Sprint users who spend “a majority of their time” on T-Mobile cell sites.

But even the users who are still mostly on Sprint sites are seeing a better experience, as T-Mobile is filling in the gaps in Sprint’s network with its own.

“Sprint customers, a lot of their traffic is on the T-Mobile network … we’ve more than tripled the Net Promoter Score among Sprint customers,” says T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert.

Fortunately, T-Mobile doesn’t need to turn off or entirely merge Sprint’s network to install its own “ultra high capacity” 5G on Sprint’s old Band 41 “Spark” spectrum, execs say. Sprint’s network layout means that the high-capacity, shorter-range Band 41 LTE can be phased out while Sprint’s narrower-band coverage layer remains, without much effect on T-Mobile’s 5G rollout plans.

“On the ultra high-capacity mid-band layer, to have 106 million covered pops inside nine months is remarkable. We’re targeting 200 million nationwide by the end of this year,” Ray says. He estimates that speeds on the Band 41 network were averaging 280-320Mbps, or 7-8 times what T-Mobile subscribers get on LTE.

With plenty of airwaves available, there’s no real rush to totally shut down Sprint’s network. “The decommissioning is going to come at the tail end of this process,” according to Peter Osvaldik, T-Mobile’s CFO.


What Is 5G For?

The execs also tried to approach the thorny question of why consumers should care about 5G. While we’ve heard a lot in the past few years about speculative new 5G uses, no real new 5G applications have come to consumers.

Sievert puts 5G in the context of the 4G transition, which created new applications like Uber and Snapchat. “Our job is to build a high-capacity network that is friendly to hardware and software innovators,” he says.

5G will be a big topic at CES next week. While T-Mobile doesn’t have an event there, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg will give his perspective on 5G, and we’re hoping to hear about real applications that consumers will use 5G for this year.

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