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Phone Companies Race to Establish National 5G Networks

T-Mobile could take the lead with a Dec. 6 launch of 5G services in select cities, including free service to low-income customers and other low-cost plans. However, all is contingent on a proposed merger with Sprint.

(TNS) — A year after Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobile revealed initial steps toward 5G wireless broadband in select cities nationally, rival T-Mobile announced its own grand vision to light up 5G in 5,000 municipalities nationally — with a key catch.

T-Mobile is initiating 5G service on Dec. 6, with plans to tap into Sprint’s 5G services next year as the companies seek approval for a $23 billion merger.

T-Mobile plans to provide free service to 10 million households in the United States who qualify based on their income, as well as to police, firefighters and other emergency responders in the United States over the coming 10 years. And the company plans to offer a $15-a-month prepaid plant is said is half that cost of its lowest-price plan today.

The catch? T-Mobile is predicating the offer on approval of the Sprint merger, with the Federal Communications Commission signing off in mid-October, but the Department of Justice scrutinizing the deal closely for any impact on the prices consumers pay for wireless service in any merger of the third and fourth largest carriers.

Sprint also provides network services that enable emerging mobile providers like Optimum cable carrier Altice USA, which recently launched its debut plans priced at $20 monthly for existing customers for the lifetime of the plan, and non-cable customers offered a $30 monthly rate

With the “Un-carrier” tagline, T-Mobile has sought to distinguish itself from Verizon and AT&T by appealing to a younger demographic, with CEO John Legere telling investment analysts last week that the Sprint merger will lift the combined company’s network on par with those of AT&T and Verizon, describing a “layer cake” of underpinning wireless spectrum at its disposal.

“The merger ... positions (the new) T-Mobile to become a nationwide leader in 5G, leapfrogging the competition in network capability and customer experience,” Legere said. “This network capability will enable us to supercharge the ‘Un-carrier’ strategy and aggressively take share from the predatory incumbents. ... We’ve caught up to AT&T and Verizon.”

Altice USA signed up 15,000 subscribers in the first weeks of service, with CEO Dexter Goei telling investment analysts on Wednesday that the company expects a big increase when it begins selling handsets online within the next few weeks. Altice USA has a customer center on Cross Street in Norwalk where customers can sign up.

“Clearly, we believe we’ve got a very attractive contract on a relative basis to our U.S. peers,” Goei said on a Wednesday conference call. “The volume numbers are ... heavily weighted towards existing customers — those are the ones that we can reach very easily, where the brand recognition is very easy as well. But ... we’ll start accelerating a lot more of that advertising once we have all of our sales capabilities up and running.”

©2019 The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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