Sprint 5G is now live in nine US cities, but things are highly likely to change drastically for Sprint very soon including the disappearance of the Sprint name itself.
That's because Sprint's merger with T-Mobile has been approved by regulators and has now seen off a legal challenge from state attorney generals citing reduced competition and potentially higher prices for consumers.
Sprint will adpopt the T-Mobile brand after the merger completes on 1 April. It's been a long time in the process - the merger was first announced nearly two years ago and had been talked about for a lot longer than that, even as long ago as 2014.
One thing is for sure - Sprint has been seen as a weak prospect through the process. Some analysts suggested that Sprint needed the merger to happen in order to survive; it has reported losses for the last three quarters and has significant debt which T-Mobile doesn't. Sprint has also been losing subscribers and lags behind as the fourth biggest player.
Judge Victor Marrero said in his judgement that "the overwhelming view both within Sprint and in the wider industry is that Sprint is falling farther and farther short of the targets it must hit to remain relevant as a significant competitor."
German firm Deutsche Telekom owns nearly 42% of the new T-Mobile and ARM-owner SoftBank around 27%. However, it seems Softbank is happy for Deutsche Telekom to be in control and will grant it proxy voting rights meaning it effectively controls the firm.
We've outlined more about the ongoing merger and its background below.
Sprint's 5G network
Sprint has been calling its 5G service True Mobile 5G. That's quite a mouthful and although it doesn't have another 5G service to differentiate from, it's likely that Sprint is trying to say something about other networks with its message - notably AT&T's 5GE (which is, essentially, 4G LTE Advanced) and others using low-band 5G.
Sprint hasn't yet spread its network citywide in any of its chosen locations, but it has recently expanded coverage in many of its key locations meaning that around 16 million people are now covered - see below for more.
For business, Sprint believes that 5G technology will change the way that businesses do business. It says that we're about to see a revolution because this is the first generation of cellular networks that can be "configured for specific needs and use cases".
It's particularly talking about the possibilities for IoT (Internet of Things) devices, but it also says it opens up possibilities for businesses to use cellular that they previously haven't thought of. Note that if you're a Google Fi subscriber, Sprint announced at a year ago that it would provide that service with 5G wireless services in the future, but we don't yet have any more details than that.
Google Fi uses cellular services from various networks and hops between them seamlessly, but it's interesting to know that 5G will be coming to the service.
Merger with T-Mobile
A $26 billion merger with T-Mobile has been in the works for two years now and was narrowly approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice - who went so far as to mandate that the new combined company will need to divest some spectrum to Dish to enable it to launch a new, fourth competitor in the market. Sprint needs to divest its Boost Mobile subsidiary to Dish to make this happen.
But then the merger came up against a problem; a multi-state lawsuit in an effort to block it, essentially suggesting that the efforts to reinstate a fourth player in the market through Dish don't go far enough and that the merger would mean higher prices for consumers.
On 12 February the federal judge in the New York Court gave the merger the go-ahead. According to Fortune, the key testimony was from Dish CEO Charlie Ergen who was convincing in his ambition to create a new, fourth player in the mobile market to effectively replace Sprint.
As well as selling spectrum to Dish, Sprint-T-Mobile will also have to host Dish as an MVNO for a time to enable it to get a mobile business off the ground while it builds its own network.
When the merger goes ahead the company will be called T-Mobile - the company has been dubbed "New T-Mobile" in publicity. The combined company would still be the third biggest network behind Verizon and AT&T.
T-Mobile currently has around 46 million users, with Sprint around 33 million (according to Statista). However, the Boost Mobile loss would see Sprint lose around 7-8 million.
The combined company has had to promise to stick to some stringent targets. The company will have to roll out a 5G service to 97 percent of the US within three years including rural areas and pledging that within six years, 90 percent of the US population will have data speeds in excess of 100Mbps, with another 9 percent having 50Mbps.
Sprint 5G cities
Sprint's 5G rollout has now stalled and will soon be combined with T-Mobile's 5G offering, meaning that T-Mobile will control additional mid-band spectrum.
Sprint originally began its 5G rollout with Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City in early 2019, but the network expanded this to nine cities as of late August 2019 with Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington D.C. now having Sprint 5G services in certain areas. Sprint now covers more than 16 million people across those nine cities.
It has been working on expanding its coverage within the nine target cities. For example, in New York City, Sprint has expanded its coverage further from the initial 30 square miles across Midtown and lower Manhattan.
As well as New York, Sprint has enhanced coverage in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. , Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
The specific areas of Sprint 5G coverage are as follows:
- Atlanta, from College Park to Alpharetta, and from Marietta to Lawrenceville, including Peachtree Corners.
- Chicago, from the historic IL-64 in the north to Stevenson Expressway in the south, and as far as California Avenue in the west to the periphery of Lake Michigan in the east.
- Dallas-Fort Worth, including downtown and north Fort Worth and Euless, stretching across to north and northwest Dallas, including Plano, Richardson and Garland, and South Dallas.
- Houston, from downtown Houston to Memorial City Mall and City Centre Plaza, uptown Houston and northwest and south.
- Kansas City, from downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to Overland Park, Kansas, and other places in the KC Metro area.
- Los Angeles, from Marina del Rey to Downtown L.A., and West Hollywood to Culver City, and now in parts of Torrance, Southgate, Lancaster and Buena Park.
- New York City, in parts of Manhattan from Central Park to the southern tip, the Upper West Side and Harlem, the South Bronx; parts of Queens and Brooklyn; Hempstead, Long Island as well as Union City, Paterson, Lodi and East Orange in NJ.
- Phoenix, across the greater Phoenix metro area with service in parts of Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Glendale, parts of ASU, Chase Field and Mesa.
- Washington, D.C., around the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the National Mall, Foggy Bottom, Downtown, Penn Quarter/Metro Center, Dupont Circle, West End and Logan Circle. New additions include Fort Dupont and Deanwood in D.C., parts of Blandensburg and Fairmont Heights in Maryland, and parts of Bailey’s Crossroads and George Mason University in Virginia.
Sprint 5G phones
Sprint now has three 5G cell phones available on its network, as well as one 5G broadband hub (see below). Sprint launched the LG V50 ThinQ 5G last spring as its first 5G device. This was followed by the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in early summer. Now the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is available, too.
The Samsung S20 5G, S20+5G and S20 Ultra 5G are also coming to Sprint's 5G network.
Interestingly, Sprint has also teamed up with HP to launch the HP Elite Dragonfly, a Windows laptop. While the first version of it - launched in 2019 - was 4G-enabled, a new version announced in January comes with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 LTE+5G modem and is part of a move by Qualcomm to further the cause of the 5G PC.
Indeed, it made a point at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that takes place at the start of the year to say "the 5G PC is here". While that probably isn't the case quite yet, it's very interesting to see the partnerships that are developing in this area.
As you'd expect, the 5G connectivity will be provided by Sprint initially, while the laptop will also include location-tracking services from Tile. However, the cellular partnership is not exclusive, so expect to see the HP Elite Dragonfly powered by other networks, too.
LG V50 ThinQ
A sleek and fully featured 5G handset, LG's 5G flagship boasts a 6.4-inch display (with support for HDR formats Dolby Vision and HDR 10). Like the OnePlus and Samsung phones it's based around Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 platform.
Other core specs are 6GB of memory and 128GB of internal storage plus a triple rear camera and dual front camera. It's also IP68 dust and waterproof.
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
OnePlus may not be the best-known brand, but it's sure producing some incredible phones now - not least this, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. Although it's very similar to the OnePlus 7 Pro, it's completely different internally and runs the Samsung Snapdragon 855 and its accompanying 5G modem like the LG and Samsung here.
The standard model has 128GB of storage, though it is possible to get it with 256GB should you need the extra room. It also has a feature we're seeing from more handsets now - a rapid-fire pop-up front camera that enables the screen to fill the entire front of the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Originally a Verizon exclusive, Sprint now has Samsung's S10 5G, too. Like the OnePlus and LG handsets, the phone boasts the power of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 platform (US models only). At 6.7-inches it's the biggest Galaxy S Series phone there's every been. Internally, it's very different than the standard S10, with extra cooling inside.
The S10 5G makes the most of the screen real estate it has by including a front-facing dual camera that's actually punched out of the corner of the display. There's also a quad camera on the rear, too.
Sprint 5G coverage
Sprint's approach to 5G services is a little different than that being employed by some of the other US networks.
Sprint is using mostly mid-band spectrum for 5G (2.5Ghz) and this is likely to mean its network doesn't have the blazing fast speeds of others - for now. It hasn't turned to mmWave - millimeter wave - which is what other US networks are using for their high-speed services.
mmWave has an advantage because it is able to provide faster top-line speeds, but the disadvantage is that the nodes need to be closer together - the waves just don't travel as far. That's one key advantage with using mid-band. Sprint's network will still have fast speeds though; Sprint's 5G network tests in various US cities have shown speeds upwards of 300Mbps.
Like other networks, Sprint is using Massive MIMO tech to increase capacity. Earlier in the year Sprints said results from early deployments show Massive MIMO is "driving a 4x average increase in capacity and speed with peak increases up to 10X over LTE".
Sprint 5G deals
Sprint's Unlimited plans are 5G compatible include Unlimited data, talk and text nationwide. You can also get free texts and basic data with Global Roaming in 200 worldwide destinations.
Sprint's plans start with Unlimited Basic for $60 a month (this won't stream in HD), with Unlimited Plus costing $70 a month and Unlimited Premium ($80 a month). Unlimited Premium includes Amazon Prime and Tidal access. All the plans include Hulu access.
Sprint preloads the Hatch gaming service on its 5G phones and customers get a complimentary three month subscription to Hatch Premium. That means you get unlimited on-demand access to more than 100 premium mobile games, including Chameleon Run and Monument Valley, Crashlands and Hatch Originals like Angry Birds GO! Turbo Edition and Arkanoid Rising.
Sprint 5G hub
Sprint is also offering HTC's 5G Hub on its network, which can be used to bring 5G speeds to up to 20 devices in your home or business.
It's essentially a Wi-Fi router with a 5-inch display so you can see connectivity speeds. But handily it can be taken anywhere you go as it has a 7,660mAh battery for those times when you need to go offsite., There's an Ethernet port should you need to connect up wired devices, too.
Sprint 5G business
Sprint Business uses the as-a-service model to ensure it can scale or change depending on what your business needs - and it'll work with your existing devices so you don't get the expense of renewing everything just because you've switched wireless or/and wireline services.
You can take the Future Readiness Assessment to find out how future-proof your business is against your competition.
Bend-Over-Backward support is also available to Sprint Business users.