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The DISH Wireless, T-Mobile Feud Has Caught the DOJ’s Attention

The Department of Justice building

Over the last several months, DISH Wireless and T-Mobile have been disputing the handling of Sprint’s legacy CDMA network. Now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is paying attention.

The merger of T-Mobile and Sprint changed the landscape of wireless in the United States. DISH Wireless was born after years of planning, T-Mobile became more powerful, and Boost Mobile changed to DISH’s control. Boost Mobile was an MVNO under Sprint’s name and the immediate ticket for DISH Network to enter the wireless industry while creating its own 5G network. This all happened in the summer of 2020. A year later, things are getting weird, and consumers may be the ones who pay the ultimate price.

This is where the DOJ comes in. DISH Wireless is claiming that the impending CDMA network shutdown will affect many of its 8-9 million subscribers who rely on the network to connect to their devices. The newest major wireless provider in America is arguing that T-Mobile is not giving a proper amount of time to transition consumers and that the cost to upgrade is too high for many of its customers. Furthermore, DISH Wireless believes that this is a play to regain customers from Boost Mobile by T-Mobile.

To an extent, the DOJ agrees and believes that too many consumers will suffer as a result of the action, but that’s not to say that the department cares who is at fault. The DOJ has said that it has “grave concerns about the potential for a nationwide CDMA shutdown to leave a substantial proportion of Boost’s customers without service.” Regardless, the DOJ is now paying attention, expects the matter to be resolved, and may suit one or both parties should consumers fail to be treated to their liking.

T-Mobile is holding firm on its side saying that DISH Wireless has been given plenty of time to remedy the situation but is instead lollygagging and creating this scenario for its benefit. Mike Sievert, CEO and President of T-Mobile, would even go on to write about the contrasting styles claiming that the Un-carrier was doing its part to move consumers into a 4G/5G world while DISH Wireless was not.

“As you may have heard, in a recent letter from the DOJ addressed to both DISH and T-Mobile, retiring outdated CDMA technology in a manner that ensures no customer is left behind is also important to policymakers,” wrote Sievert.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

Sievert would continue, “…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 (current) technology.”

The transition window is closing quickly. T-Mobile is set to shut down its CDMA network in January 2022. Meanwhile, the company has been transitioning the Spring CDMA subscribers it still has over the last few months. Upgrades include free 5G phones and service plans that are equal or better to the current plans subscribers use for the same price or lower. T-Mobile is arguing that the same can be done over at DISH Wireless, but that the company is hesitant due to costs. By presenting clear offers to upgrade for 4G/5G devices when customers make their monthly payments, T-Mobile believes DISH Wireless can achieve this transition.

“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…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 MetroPCS CDMA transition, which if followed by them, will ensure a fast and smooth transition.”

Charlie Ergen, the Co-founder and Chairman of DISH Network had plenty to say regarding the situation. On praising the upgrades but noting a possible market change, Ergan stated, “I think they’re kind of smoked out now. They have an extraordinary offer in the marketplace for a free upgrade to a 5G phone and 50% off service for two years, extraordinary offer. That’s obviously aimed at customers to upgrade to their network.”

Ergen defended his company’s stance and criticized T-Mobile, however, saying, “The bottom line is, they’re what I call ‘sore winners.’ It’s hard to be a good winner sometimes. They’ve got $70 billion in synergies that the government allowed them to have. Now they want $71 billion by getting some customers that we already pay them for. You’ve all met that guy in grade school who won and bragged about himself and bragged about how good he was and spiked the ball in front of you. Sometimes it takes a bit of maturity to be a good winner. And they’re a sore winner.”

DISH Network’s Chairman insists that most Boost Mobile customers will become affected come January 1, 2022, but that the company is working to find a solution. “…we are taking all reasonable efforts to migrate customers, and we’ve made good progress on that so that people don’t suffer from a premature shutdown,” said Ergen. “I think the number (of CDMA customers) is now smaller, but our projections show a material amount of customers on January 1 will still have CDMA phones and will lose their service. This is the most economically challenged group in America. These aren’t the customers that have bank accounts and high-paying jobs. These are people that are economically challenged, so I think it’s even more important that these people don’t lose their service,” he continued.

Interest from the DOJ is something to pay attention to. DISH Wireless is building its 5G network on a tight budget of $10 billion and a lawsuit would not be favorable during this time. It must also reach 20% of Americans with coverage by June 2022 and 70% of Americans by June 2023 or face a fine of more than $2 billion from the government. All of this and more is why DISH Wireless will want to keep consumers connected as it looks to fulfill its obligations and generate revenue for its 5G network deployment.

Due in part to the CDMA network shutdown, DISH Wireless also signed a 10-year deal with AT&T that will help keep its MVNOs connected for the next decade with two additional transitional years afterward. DISH Wireless persists that its interest is keeping consumers connected and resolving the issues put before the company by the CDMA shutdown. “…the fact that a consumer can upgrade – that may not be good for Boost, but our main objective at DISH and Boost is to make sure customers don’t lose their service. To the extent that the customer upgrades and doesn’t lose their service, I’d much rather have that than the customer (loses) their service,” said Ergen.

Source: Fierce Wireless

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