T-Mobile's 5G build-out is reportedly slowing down thanks to delay in merger approval

T-Mobile's 5G build-out is reportedly slowing down thanks to delay in merger approval
It appears that T-Mobile has put its 5G build-out on hold while it awaits the final disposition about its $26.2 billion merger with Sprint. A report from Light Reading (via TmoNews) cites research from Wells Fargo stating that the nation's third-largest wireless provider has slowed down the deployment of cell sites. While the carrier has not admitted to slowing down the build-out of its 5G network, the research report from the bank claims that based on chatter from tower companies, macro cell sites are being affected by the slow down but not small cell sites. The former sends out high power signals using an antenna, tower or mast. The latter uses low power antennas and are situated on the sides of poles, streetlights or buildings. Unlike macro cell towers that might be miles apart, small cells are placed blocks apart.

Tower companies and the firms used to construct them are feeling the slowdown according to the report. That's because, over the last year and a half, T-Mobile has been very aggressive in deploying the 600MHz low-band spectrum that it won in an FCC auction two-years ago. The carrier paid $7.99 billion for 31MHz of the 600MHz airwaves; low-frequency spectrum travels farther and penetrates buildings better than mid and higher-band signals. The use of the 600MHz band over more of the country is the subject of T-Mobile's new commercial featuring the 2019 iPhones (which of course support the band). T-Mobile has also successfully tested in the wild, 5G data sessions run over the 600MHz spectrum.

The 600MHz band combined with Sprint's mid-band 2.5GHz signal are being counted on by T-Mobile to help it become the first U.S. wireless provider with a nationwide 5G network in the states. The sub-6GHz 5G signals will combine with T-Mobile's mmWave airwaves to provide faster 5G speed to its customers. The question, of course, is whether T-Mobile will complete the merger with Sprint and take control of the latter's hoard of 2.5GHz spectrum. The carrier has been testing 2.5GHz spectrum in case the merger closes but has allegedly requested that the FCC auction airwaves in the 3.7GHz-4.2GHz range just in case.

Does Sprint's Lifeline "scandal" threaten FCC approval of the merger with T-Mobile?


Wells Fargo also alleges that in addition to apparently slowing down its 5G build-out, T-Mobile is slowing down its payments to contractors. Invoices with a payment date of 60 days are said to be 100 to 120 days late. One contractor speaking to the banking firm said that what T-Mobile was doing was "systematic conservation of capital." T-Mobile responded to the Wells Fargo report by noting that it still plans on expanding LTE coverage and performance "while simultaneously laying the foundation for broad, nationwide 5G in 2020. That hasn’t and won’t change."


T-Mobile first announced its merger with Sprint back in April 2018. After wooing the FCC by giving the agency promises about 5G coverage targets and a price freeze during the first 3-years after the merger closes, the Department of Justice (DOJ) required more. To gain DOJ approval, Sprint sold off all of its pre-paid businesses including Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile to Dish Network along with some 800MHz spectrum. The goal is to make Dish the new "fourth-largest U.S. carrier" replacing Sprint.

Meanwhile, there are now two issues that are keeping the merger from closing. One is Sprint's Lifeline "scandal" that has upset FCC chairman Ajit Pai. The chairman originally recommended that the merger receive FCC approval, but had some harsh words to say after it was discovered that Sprint was claiming payment for 885,000 subscribers to the subsidized Lifeline service who did not use the program. Pai said last week, "It’s outrageous that a company would claim millions of taxpayer dollars for doing nothing. This shows a careless disregard for program rules and American taxpayers."

And there is still the matter of the lawsuit filed by 17 state attorneys general seeking to block the deal. That trial starts on December 9th.

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11 Comments

1. Venom

Posts: 3690; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Just let it go already. FFS Sprint is pretty much dead in the water right now. They are not going to survive. They barely can get their LTE right. Look how long it took them to adapt it over the failed Wimax. There's really only 3 carriers in the US anyhow.

9. Phullofphil

Posts: 1822; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

Who are you talking to. You speak like your in the middle of it all. A big paragraph of generalizations none of it based in fact except that WiMAX did not work out

16. harrisvt

Posts: 18; Member since: Nov 10, 2015

Except it is based in fact. Have you looked at sprints debt load? Seriously declining subscriber base. Horrible coverage with no clear path to fix......just sayin.

2. Derekjeter

Posts: 1515; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Has anybody really tried 5g?? Inside and out. Carriers should not charge for that crap for another 5-7 years until they can figure it out. The roll out has been worst than when they rolled out LTE. I would be fine with faster wider LTE for another 5 years until 5g is fully developed and ready for the public.

4. ah252

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 29, 2019

I have spent months trying to get a straight answer from TMobile about the slow speeds every afternoon and evening. Finally they admitted the coverage where I live is not fixable as things are and there are no planned upgrades. Adding a million subscribers every quarter while cutting investment in towers etc is not good for customers. Can't wait to bail out.

7. TadTrickle

Posts: 78; Member since: Apr 08, 2019

I live in woodbridge nj and i can relate,same issue. But where i used to live 20 minutes away, no problem, full bars 24/7

11. applesnapple93

Posts: 312; Member since: Jan 06, 2016

did tmobiles 30 day trial (in NJ) and I can report that the deadzones that were there 11 years ago when I left tmobile are still there and that my verizon phone had coverage everywhere while the tmobile jetpack had coverage most places. speed was comparable on both networks. Neither blew the other one out in any given location.

6. TadTrickle

Posts: 78; Member since: Apr 08, 2019

Understandably, things are in limbo right now. Im sure they have different plans depending on the outcome

12. mloudt

Posts: 21; Member since: Nov 14, 2014

I've said since the beginning of this merger the better partner for T-mobile was Dish. If I was T-mo I'd use the Lifeline scam thing by Sprint as a way to get out this now and I'd go with Dish. DOJ and FCC already approved Dish taking over Boost mobile and most of Sprint's assets spectrum. T-mob Sprint merger after going to court and Lifeline review penalty is over will already be next year. Also, with Dish's mid and highband spectrum that would help with T-mobi's lackluster peak daytime download speeds. We know Dish not good with keeping their word of spectrum buildout but T-mobi has been great at their's. Another thing most people that don't realize and haven't mentioned much was that with T-mo Sprint merger you have like 50 plus billion in debt and once them 3 years were up of current prices best believe we would have seen a price hike. T-mo Dish way less debt way less jobs lost upfront just better overall. Pull out now Magna and I guarantee y'all a Dish T-mo deal would b closed by Valentines' 2020~

14. ShadowHammer

Posts: 207; Member since: Mar 13, 2015

Hm, an interesting alternative. I'd like to read an article or two that fleshes this idea out more fully. For T-Mobile, it probably stinks right now to be in this limbo. "Do we invest in 5G in this spectrum, or wait and see, and then invest differently because Sprint brings X, Y, Z to the table, etc., etc."

15. veerhardik

Posts: 11; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

what is good in the delay of this merger its people's loss, and who are you thanking to! that's stupid that there is a delay in the merger. I have been on t mobile for the last 12 years and haven't paid more than 100$ on grandfather plan. I have seen the real experience of getting better day by day in same price

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