How The T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Will Impact Rural Americans

The proposed T-Mobile and Sprint merger won't help rural Americans who need access to affordable, reliable high-speed broadband service.

While T-Mobile and Sprint claim that the merger is essential to the companies' ability to build a nationwide 5G network that would bring broadband to rural communities, a close look at the proposal for the New T-Mobile tells a different story.

Sprint's current network is mostly concentrated in urban and suburban areas and adding it to T-Mobile's current network will not result in gains in rural areas.

The future capacity that Sprint brings to the network is in the mid-band spectrum (2.5 GHz and PCS), which is critical for providing high-speed networks. However, because mid-band spectrum can only transmit wireless signals over short distances, any significant increase in coverage would require the construction of many more cell towers, which is not cost effective in low-density rural areas.

Low-band spectrum (600 MHz), on the other hand, has a wider reach. While that makes it better suited for rural areas, it has limited capacity to provide high-speed broadband and cannot support applications such as high-definition video, online gaming, telehealth services and connected vehicles.

While the following chart, from the Public Interest Statement that T-Mobile and Sprint filed with the FCC, shows increases in post-merger mid-band network coverage, that coverage is likely to be concentrated in urban and suburban areas. Meanwhile, the low-band coverage that is likely to serve rural areas will not change significantly as a result of the merger.

T-MobileSprintNew T-Mobile
YearCoverage TypeCovered Population
Covered Population
Covered Population

(77% uncovered)


(47% uncovered)


(26% uncovered)

 Low Band317.9

(2.9% uncovered)


(2.4% uncovered)


(47% uncovered)


(41% uncovered)


(14% uncovered)


(1.4% uncovered)


(1.0% uncovered)

Even under the best case scenario, T-Mobile and Sprint project that if the merger were approved, 26 percent of the population (84.6 million Americans) would still lack New T-Mobile mid-band coverage in 2021, and by 2024, 14 percent of the total population (45.9 million Americans) would continue to lack access to the high-capacity mid-band network.

Because of the technical limitations of the spectrum, the vast majority of this uncovered population would be among the 60 million Americans living in the less dense, rural areas.

Even the lower-capacity low-band network would only serve an additional 1.7 million users by 2021 and an additional 1.1 million users by 2024 compared to a stand-alone T-Mobile.

Even six years after the merger, most of the New T-Mobile's rural customers will have to settle for service that is significantly worse than customers in urban and suburban areas. Claims that the T-Mobile/Sprint merger would serve the public interest by helping close the digital divide for rural Americans are contradicted by the companies' own data.

The Bottom Line? The FCC should not approve the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint as currently structured because it would result in substantial public interest harm from job loss and higher prices and offers no verifiable, merger-related public interest benefits.