Sprint chairman and head of SoftBank Masayoshi Son is pushing for the U.S. government to approve a potential merger between Sprint and T-Mobile USA – currently owned by Deutsche Telekom. His strategy has ranged from promising to cut consumer costs to straight up knocking the Internet in the United States. Speaking to Re/Code recently, Son said that Internet speeds in the United States are “horrible.” He argues that approving a merger with T-Mobile will help increase speeds for everyone. Son told Re/Code that, if merged with T-Mobile, Sprint could provide home Internet speeds that are 10x faster than what’s currently available.
That’s a big promise, considering Google and other firms are already offering gigabit Internet services. Also, the merger wouldn’t immediately boost wireless speeds because it’s not as simple as Son makes it sound.
Sprint’s own 3G network is notoriously slow, so users without 4G LTE coverage fall back onto older EV-DO technology. It also operates on a CDMA voice network, instead of GSM in the case of T-Mobile and AT&T. On AT&T and T-Mobile, when LTE coverage isn’t available, customers fall back to HSPA and HSPA+ data networks, both of which offer speeds far in excess of EV-DO. Even if Sprint did merge with T-Mobile, Sprint’s customers couldn’t easily fall back to T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network – because the technology and the frequencies differ so drastically.
Son and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse have already met with federal agencies, and FCC Tom Wheeler has already said he’s “highly skeptical” of a Sprint/T-Mobile deal. The U.S. government denied AT&T’s bid to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom a few years ago, and Son is now faced with convincing the government why it should approve his deal instead. The problem is, the networks are so different that the two won’t be combined for many, many years to make the kind of speed advancements Son is promising.