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T-Mobile delays shutdown of Sprint 3G network

It’s pushed the date back to March to give “partners” more time

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T-Mobile has delayed its plans to shut down Sprint’s CDMA network
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

T-Mobile said it will delay its planned shutdown of Sprint’s 3G network by three months to ensure its “partners” have time to help customers with the transition. It had originally planned to phase out the network in January; that date has now been pushed to March 31st, 2022.

“Recently it’s become increasingly clear that some of those partners haven’t followed through on their responsibility to help their customers through this shift,” the company said in a statement. “So, we’re stepping up on their behalf.”

T-Mobile’s statement doesn’t mention it by name, but likely is referring to Dish Network. The two sides have tangled over T-Mobile’s announcement it was shutting down Sprint’s legacy network, because of the impact it would have on Dish’s Boost Mobile customers.

As one of the conditions of the T-Mobile/Sprint Merger, Dish acquired Boost Mobile in July, 2020 with the goal of Dish taking Sprint’s place as a fourth wireless carrier in the US. After T-Mobile announced it planned to shut down Sprint’s CDMA network, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen compared T-Mobile to the Grinch, and later said his company was making every effort to migrate its customers.

But T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert wrote in a blog post that Dish was “dragging their feet in getting their customers upgraded to the superior 4G/5G world.”

Dish fired back on Monday; Jeff Blum, the company’s executive VP of external and legislative affairs said in a statement emailed to The Verge that T-Mobile’s announcement “is a recognition that its premature shutdown of the CDMA network will harm consumers who rely on this network for critical connectivity, including 911.”

Blum said that the additional time was “not nearly sufficient” to ensure that “over one million Boost customers— many of whom are low-income — projected to still need access to this network beyond March 31, 2022.” Supply chain cellphone shortages and COVID-related interruptions have slowed the upgrades, he added

“Given T-Mobile’s new admission that continuing the operation of its CDMA network will have ‘no material financial impact’ to its business and 5G buildout, we urge the company to live up to its promises to regulators,” Blum said.

The Department of Justice told Dish Network and T-Mobile in a July letter that it had “grave concerns” about the shutdown of Sprint’s legacy network, and urged both sides to take “all appropriate steps” to reduce the impact on customers who still rely on the network.

Update: October 25th 1:46PM ET: Adds statement from Dish Network EVP.