When T-Mobile announced its plan to acquire Sprint last April the company positioned the deal as a necessary step for 5G. As part of the merger, executives at both companies said they planned to combine Sprint’s wide swath of 2.5 GHz spectrum with T-Mobile’s nationwide 600 MHz spectrum to provide a 5G network with much deeper coverage than either could do alone.
But at the time of the merger announcement, neither talked about using 5G to provide an in-home broadband service to consumers that would compete with cable companies like Charter Communications and Comcast. Now that’s changed.
In new FCC filings, T-Mobile’s President and COO Mike Sievert said the merged company’s 5G plans include offering in-home fixed broadband service to more than “52 percent of zip codes across the country.” He also said that the combined company plans include covering 64 percent of Charter’s existing territory and 68 percent of Comcast’s territory with in-home broadband by 2024.
Sievert added that he believes customers in rural areas will be particularly attracted to T-Mobile’s in-home service because of their limited offerings and the high prices they pay for existing broadband services. He also said that the company plans to provide self-install equipment in the home, eliminating the need for a truck roll.
This revelation is interesting because if T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint is approved, the new T-Mobile will compete in fixed wireless broadband against Verizon, which plans to launch its fixed 5G wireless service in four markets on Oct. 1. And AT&T revealed just last week that it plans to launch a fixed 5G wireless service using the CBRS spectrum band in 2019. However, Verizon has said that at least initially its 5G fixed wireless service will come with a “white glove” service that will install customer premises equipment, and in some cases an external antenna.
T-Mobile also said that it believes that some consumers will use their mobile 5G service as a substitute for in-home broadband. In the filing, Sievert said that the company estimates about 5.8 million households will use T-Mobile’s mobile 5G service for all their broadband by 2021 and potentially 6.3 million households will use it for all their broadband by 2024.
Migrating Sprint Customers
In the same filing, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray also provided some details on how T-Mobile plans to migrate Sprint customers to its network once the merger is approved. Ray said that it will move existing T-Mobile and Sprint customers to a common core network. That will require T-Mobile’s engineering team to bridge the two standalone core networks together.
To do that, they will use a bridge technology called multi-operator core network (MOCN), which basically uses a virtual single core network to route services to the T-Mobile core.
At the same time, T-Mobile engineers will increase the scale of T-Mobile’s core network to handle increased traffic created by the new Sprint customers.