Tom Struble, the R Street Institute’s Technology and Innovation Policy Team Manager, said the merger may hurt competition in the telecom industry but thinks it’s unlikely. Overall, he thinks the merger will be good for consumers.
“I think AT&T and Verizon will probably cut their prices in competition with the new combined T Mobile-Sprint,” he told InsideSources. “I don’t think prices will go up, at least in the short term. AT&T and Verizon will legitimately face stronger competition from T-Mobile and lower or at least keep their prices steady.”
Struble also said the merger will intensify competition in the home broadband market and may improve the combined mobile-and-home-internet market overall in the long term.
A combined Sprint and T-Mobile, he said, will be poised to compete directly with cable companies like Comcast and Charter. In many rural areas, Comcast is the only home broadband provider and delivers poor service while engaging in fraudulent billing practices.
“They’re very well positioned to go into the home broadband market and take customers away from Comcast,” he said. “It’s [going from] two to three providers in the home broadband market. Even if we’re losing competition on the mobile wireless side, we’re gaining competition on the home broadband market. And as these two markets converge, we’ll see them go after each other. Comcast and Charter are already offering their own virtual mobile networks, so I think there’s convergence already. It’s a more dynamic ecosystem than it was even five years ago. I think that was a big part of what swayed the FCC and the DOJ to approve this merger.”
As for bringing 5G to rural areas, Struble thinks Sprint and T-Mobile’s combined spectrum holdings will allow them to make the investments necessary to build out 5G, but to do so, the FCC will need to improve and update its inaccurate broadband maps.
“Assuming they (the FCC) do their job and collect that data, then the 5G buildout will be very meaningful,” Struble said.