Fast 5G ‘will cover 97% of US population by 2022’, promises T-Mobile as FCC backs $146bn deal

21 May 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The merger between T-Mobile US and Sprint could now go ahead in weeks after the US regulator extracted a deal to guarantee widespread mobile broadband coverage across the country by 2022.

John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile US, who will run the merged company, called these “verifiable, enforceable and specific commitments”.

They include a 5G network that would cover 97% of the US population within three years, including 85% of the rural population. And it would cover 99% of the US population within six years and 90% of the rural population.

T-Mobile will “invest nearly $40 billion within three years of [the deal] closing”, the company told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a 28-page submission.

“T-Mobile and Sprint have guaranteed that 90% of Americans would have access to mobile broadband service at speeds of at least 100Mbps and 99% would have access to speeds of at least 50Mbps,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement supporting the merger.

Legere said: “This should also force Verizon and AT&T to re-evaluate their 5G strategies and accelerate their investment and 5G deployment.”

The FCC’s countdown clock on its website says that this is day 168 of a 180-day consultation timeline, giving the process another 22 working days – putting a potential completion towards the end of June. However a few weeks ago T-Mobile and Sprint said they were aiming for a month later, 29 July, for completion.

The majority shareholder of T-Mobile US is Deutsche Telekom, and SoftBank, the majority shareholder of Sprint, would allow the German company to have management control after the completion, under the terms of the agreement set out in 2018.