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DOJ letter tells Dish and T-Mobile to figure out CDMA customer migration, or else

DOJ letter tells Dish and T-Mobile to figure out CDMA customer migration, or else


The Department of Justice isn’t letting either party off the hook

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An illustration of T-Mobile’s magenta “T” logo on a black field with color-matched graphical squares.
T-Mobile plans to shut down Sprint’s legacy CDMA network on January 1st 2022, a move that Dish Network calls anti-competitive.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Department of Justice has “grave concerns” about the upcoming shutdown of Sprint’s legacy CDMA network, according to a recent letter spotted by Bloomberg, and is urging both Dish Network and T-Mobile to take “all appropriate steps” to reduce the impact on customers still relying on the network. Many of Dish’s Boost Mobile customers — which it acquired from T-Mobile as a condition of the Sprint merger — still rely on the older 3G network and stand to lose phone service when the Un-carrier decommissions it on January 1st, 2022. It’s been a sore spot in increasingly troubled relations between the two companies.

This July 9th letter from the DOJ was shared by Dish as part of its second quarter financial filings yesterday. It’s addressed to Dish Network and T-Mobile lawyers, and it acknowledges that the network sunset could potentially leave a significant number of Boost Mobile customers stranded without phone service. The DOJ reminds T-Mobile that it agreed to give Dish “reasonable advance notice” of a legacy network shutdown, though it stops short of condemning T-Mobile’s timeline as unreasonable. Essentially, the DOJ says it’ll need to wait and see how things play out in order to know whether the notice T-Mobile gave was reasonable.

“The Division cannot yet determine whether the notice provided will have been reasonable for a January 1, 2022 CDMA shutdown in light of all relevant facts and circumstances since they have not all transpired. However, if DISH undertakes all reasonable efforts to transition its customers off the CDMA network and a substantial portion are still remaining at the end of the period, that fact may very well suggest that notice had not been sufficient.”

The DOJ doesn’t let Dish off the hook, either, and says the company is also bound by the terms of the merger agreement to make every effort to migrate Boost customers off the old network.

“...any failure by DISH to pursue all available avenues to prevent a widespread loss of services to the customers it acquired pursuant to that Final Judgment could raise concerns regarding its own compliance.”

The letter wraps up with a tidy request to please just figure it out, or else.

“The Division therefore expects both Parties to take all available steps to ensure the transition of Boost customers off the CDMA network prior to its shutdown. Should any conduct related to the CDMA network shutdown suggest that a violation of the Final Judgment will likely occur, the Division will act swiftly to pursue all remedies available to it.”

Meanwhile, the two companies don’t appear to be ready to act cooperatively. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert published a blog post yesterday admonishing Dish for “dragging their feet in getting their customers upgraded to the superior 4G/5G world.” On a call yesterday with investors, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen sounded more resigned when discussing the topic than he did a few months ago when he compared T-Mobile to the Grinch, this time calling the company “sore winners.” He says that Dish is making all reasonable efforts to migrate its customers, but he believes a “material amount” of them will stand to lose service on January 1st.