Rumors are circulating around about Sprint and a possible bid for T-Mobile sometime next year. While absolutely nothing has even been close to being set in stone yet, the community is already voicing either their approval or opposition to the matter.
For me personally, as a new T-Mobile customer, I find the possibility of a merger interesting. Here’s my personal thoughts on the matter. I wouldn’t be opposed to such a merger if done “right”. I don’t think Sprint and T-Mobile should just create a hurried merger together and be done with it. Doing so would create nothing but a total mess.
However, if a merger was strategically planned and implemented correctly, then I could see a SprinT-Mobile combined company make a real difference in the wireless industry. Here’s what I believe would need to happen, as well as my personal “wishlist” on the matter.
1. Keep “Un-Carrier”
The first thing that should come out of the deal is to retain all of the “un-carrier” approaches to wireless that T-Mobile has worked so hard to implement. Removing them would be suicide. It’s clear that “un-carrier” is working. While Sprint has some excellent value plans as well, T-Mobile’s “un-carrier” edge is just enough better to swing more people in their direction. Here’s what I would want to see retained out of the deal:
A. Unlimited talk, text, and data (simple one since both carriers offer this).
B. No contract plans (I would hope Sprint would totally ditch the 2 year contract after the merger).
C. Device financing (excellent way to replace contracts without having to pay full retail for the phone up front).
D. Early Upgrades (JUMP is a little better than One Up on this, and keeping something like JUMP would be ideal. Early upgrades are key to keeping customers haply).
E. Included International Data Roaming (it does feel great not having to worry about SIM-unlocking my phone if I want to take it out of the country).
F. Affordable International Calling (I’m very happy with T-Mobile’s $10 International Talk and Text plan right now. I’d like to keep it or have something even better).
G. Free data for tablets (it’s driving a lot of customers to T-Mobile. I’m having trouble getting my hands on an iPad!).
H. Included features like HD Voice, Wi-Fi Calling, and Mobile Hotspot (they’re nice perks).
I. Either keep our bills as low as they are or find ways to make them lower. The combined company would need to continue to be the value leader.
2. Keep GSM
The second thing that would need to come out of the deal is if one of the two networks are to stand, it should be the GSM network. While CDMA is not necessarily a poor technology, and while it worked well for Verizon, CDMA at the 3G level is slower than GSM and isn’t used as much globally as GSM. The combined company, if ever happened, should slowly phase out the CDMA network entirely. It should re-farm the majority of the spectrum to LTE, since LTE is the pathway we’re all converging to. The rest of the spectrum should be re-farmed to GSM. It’d allow for more “global ready devices”, more modernized towers, and more bands of service to compete head to head with AT&T allowing more customers to bring their AT&T phones over to SprinT-Mobile. The combined company would also want to work with its MVNO’s to transition them to GSM, as well as combine all their MVNO’s into a single pool on a single, unified network, allowing them an even stronger base to compete with the big guys like AT&T and Verizon. The company would also have to figure out what it wants to do with Direct Connect/PTT as a service.
3. Keep John Legere
In order for such a company to really compete, it’d need to keep John Legere high up in the ranks. While no CEO is perfect, and while Legere will never win the title of the “world’s most graceful CEO”, it’s obvious he has the guts to compete with AT&T and Verizon, and his “un-carrier” approach is working. He communicates and listens to his customers, and he knows what’s broken in the wireless industry and how to fix all the pain points. He also has the showmanship to pull it off. He’s an asset the company wouldn’t want to lose.
4. Merge All Brands under a Single Brand
Right now, Sprint’s branding portfolio is a little fragmented, and even T-Mobile is operating a couple different brands. We’ve got Sprint, Virgin Mobile, Clear, Boost Mobile, T-Mobile, MetroPCS, etc. In order to drum up more momentum to compete head to head with the big guys, in order to operate more retail stores under a unified brand, and in order to swing more customers under a trusted brand name, it’s crucial that the fragmentation would end and a single, unified brand would emerge. Personally I’d prefer it to be the T-Mobile brand, and even if Deutsche Telekom were to exit the US market, the combined company could strike a licensing deal from them for the brand name, allowing D.T. to continue to receive some revenue off the licensing agreement.
Regardless of what the brand would end up being called, a single brand would need to emerge. What makes the big guys like AT&T so successful is not customer service, pricing, etc., since they clearly offer none of that. What makes their brand so successful is AT&T is no longer operating a bunch of fragmented brands (SBC, BellSouth, Cingular, etc.) AT&T merged the majority of their brands into a single, unified AT&T brand. Doing so gives them a ton of momentum to compete in the market. If the SprinT-Mobile merger ever occurs, and a single, unified brand comes out of the deal, it’s going to account for a larger customer base and way more momentum to go after the big guys.
5. Merge LTE Networks
The real kicker with such a deal would be to merge all of its LTE networks into a single, unified LTE network. Ensure all the LTE devices on its network has all the proper bands to support the entire LTE network footprint, and all customers would instantly have more access to a larger LTE network. Sprint could also merge its Spark service into the network as well, boosting LTE speeds across the nation. If the two companies could create a very solid LTE network, this would be the real momentum to compete with the big guys.
6. “Possibly” Get Back Into Home Services
Sprint has offered wireline services in the past, Clear offered home broadband services, and T-Mobile offered a wireless home phone service in the past, but none are really competing big time in home services as of now. It could possibly be a good area to get into once the combined network would be in place. Some of us still use home phone service, but landlines such as AT&T are a pain to pay for for services such as unlimited long distance. Home broadband is another area many people suffer with, especially in rural areas. Services such as Verizon HomeFusion are ridiculously expensive. If such a company could offer unlimited home phone service and unlimited wireless broadband service at home, it would rescue a lot of customers at the mercy of slow data speeds or outrageous prices. While we have a local ISP here that offers that, it’d be great if the rest of the nation that needs it could have it.
The bottom line for such a company to compete would be these three elements: 1. Single Branding, 2. Simple “Un-Carrier” Plans/Services, 3. Solid Network. These are the three major points such a company would want to drive home in order to compete head to head with the big guys in the wireless industry.
As I mentioned from the beginning, all of this is just random musings, rumors, and speculations right now, but I wanted to give my personal insights on the matter. Sprint and T-Mobile are two great companies, and whether they work together or separately in the wireless industry, it’s great to see more competition to the big guys. I for one would be happy either way. I’m happy with the way T-Mobile currently is, but as long as a SprinT-Mobile merger was done the “right” way using some of the approaches mentioned above, it could position itself as a very powerful value competitor to the big guys and shake up the wireless industry even more. Only time will tell what will really happen, but it’s interesting to ponder.