Dish petitions CPUC over T-Mobile CMDA shutdown

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Dish said a forced migration of Boost customers over the next 251 days (as of April 26) likely will lead to significant service disruption for customers. (Boost Mobile)

Dish Network asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reopen its proceeding involving the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile in order to enforce merger commitments.

T-Mobile announced it will shut down its CDMA network, which it inherited from Sprint, in January 2022. Dish argued in a filing with CPUC that date is inconsistent with statements the company made to the CPUC before the merger closed. Dish insisted T-Mobile executives promised not to shut it down for at least three years, giving Dish more time to transition Boost Mobile customers who are still using the CDMA network.

Dish said the shutdown will potentially disrupt millions of Boost customers nationwide, including customers in California, but the number of California customers was redacted in the public filing.

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T-Mobile doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to the CPUC. Last year, T-Mobile announced it was going to close its merger with Sprint on April 1, before the CPUC had a chance to make a final vote on the matter. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said at the time the Covid-19 crisis was having a big impact on the financial markets, so much so that they needed to close the deal before banks decided they couldn’t provide financing.

T-Mobile announced the closure of the Sprint deal on April 1, 2020, and the CPUC issued an order on April 27 granting the transaction, subject to a number of conditions.

Dish told the CPUC that T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray stated under oath that there would be a three-year transition period to move CDMA customers onto the New T-Mobile network.

T-Mobile did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Dish’s CPUC filing.

However, in earlier statements, T-Mobile said the phase-out of 2G/3G technologies across the wireless industry was a natural evolution, and it’s been “very proactive” and “transparent” about the timing of the CDMA transition with all of its MVNOs, including Dish.

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T-Mobile said it’s given Dish far more notice than the six months required by contract, and its agreement with Dish is clear that Dish is responsible for migrating Boost customers, just as T-Mobile is responsible for migrating Sprint customers.

Dish also argued that migrating prepaid customers is different than postpaid, in part because it’s difficult to notify prepaid customers when they have no address or other contact information on file. Boost customers are not required to provide a street address or email address when purchasing service. Even if Boost had initial contact information, it’s not unusual for prepaid customers to be transient, especially if they had to move due to economic pressures from Covid, according to Boost Mobile EVP Stephen Stokols, who provided statements as part of Dish's filing with the CPUC.