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T-Mobile unloads on DISH over 'grave concerns' Sprint network shutdown letter by DoJ

Recently, a bunch of official and semi-official Sprint and T-Mobile 2G/3G/4G network shutdown dates became available, and DISH was so enraged that it is switching to AT&T as a "primary network" with the argument that its Boost customers will be left hanging with the shutdown of Sprint's voice network.

Now the Justice Department is looking into the matter, tips Bloomberg, and has expressed "grave concerns" over precisely those dates in a letter to both DISH and T-Mobile, warranting a reply from the Un-carrier.

The DoJ which was in charge of overseeing the T-Mobile and Sprint merger details, agreed on the condition that the two carriers will divest of some of its prepaid brands, and there will be enough legacy network shutdown transition period to allow DISH to become a fourth major carrier with the inherited prepaid subscribers. In particular, the letter is targeting the following leaked or announced Sprint and T-Mobile network sunset dates:

  • Sprint 2G/3G network shutdown date: January 1, 2022

  • Sprint 4G LTE network sunset date: June 30, 2022

  • T-Mobile 3G network shutdown date: April 1, 2022 (formerly October 1st, 2021)

  • T-Mobile 2G network shutdown date: January 1, 2023

The Justice Department is apparently left "left with grave concerns about the potential for a nationwide CDMA shutdown to leave a substantial proportion of Boost’s customers without service," writes the letter, provoking a quick and defiant reaction from T-Mobile:

As you may have heard, in a recent letter from the DOJ addressed to both DISH and T-Mobile, retiring outdated CDMA technology in a manner that ensures no customer is left behind is also important to policymakers.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.

When it comes to DISH, the tone and language of the press release that the Un-carrier sent us quickly gets a nasty turn, showing just how exasperated T-Mobile is with the moves of DISH which is apparently not going to be ready with its 5G network before 2022.

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.

Don't hold back now, T-Mobile, we know that the feeling of blackmail is not pleasant but one has to ask themselves exactly how many people are still on older phone technology to warrant such a brouhaha over an aging network shutdown.

Actually, quite a lot. According to DISH's Chairman Charlie Ergen, most of the 9 million subscribers it inherited by acquiring Boost Mobile from Sprint, are using the CDMA network which will be sunset in January, while T-Mobile's own 2G service is apparently not scheduled for shutdown before 2023.

Those three two need to figure it out, and pronto, or the DoJ could easily be on the case with all the legal repercussions involved.

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