T-Mobile extends CDMA shutdown by 3 months

T-Mobile announced that it will extend the deadline for its CDMA network shutdown by three months, to March 31, 2022.

That’s not a lot more time than it already was giving Dish Network to prepare to transition Boost Mobile customers off CDMA, but it’s better than the January 1, 2022, date it previously targeted.

“This decision has no material financial impact to our business and the rapid pace of our 5G buildout will continue,” T-Mobile said in a statement posted to its website Friday. “Our reason for extending is simple: we want to give those partners who haven’t done the right thing for their customers every opportunity to step up now and do so.”

T-Mobile’s already blasted Dish and said it was “dragging their feet” in getting customers upgraded to the 4G/5G world, so it drove the knife in a bit further, saying: “There should be no more room for excuses. We have provided even more time and those partners can follow suit with the effort that is needed to ensure no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

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Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen complained earlier this year that T-Mobile President and CEO Mike Sievert was looking like a magenta “Grinch,” and Dish accused the “un-carrier” of anti-competitive behavior.

Dish: 3 months isn’t enough time

Dish issued a statement on Monday saying the pandemic and supply chain issues are contributing to its efforts to migrate customers off CDMA, and three additional months isn’t enough time.

“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. While additional time is welcome, three months is not nearly sufficient to protect the well over one million Boost consumers – many of whom are low income – projected to still need access to this network beyond March 31, 2022,” said Jeff Blum, Dish EVP of External and Legislative Affairs, in a statement. “While DISH has successfully migrated millions of consumers off the CDMA network, migrations of this scale are complex and take time. Despite DISH’s significant migration efforts to date, supply chain cellphone shortages, COVID-related interruptions and other economic challenges continue to constrain upgrades.”

Clearly, Dish isn’t backing off. “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. DISH stands ready to work with T-Mobile on behalf of consumers to ensure that they are protected and not disenfranchised because T-Mobile decided to go back on its word,” Blum stated.

The case at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) continues. The CPUC held a hearing last month as it looks into statements T-Mobile made about keeping the CDMA network alive long enough for Dish to complete its migration. Dish still has a deadline of October 29 to submit its reply to the CPUC. 

It’s all somewhat ironic in that Dish played a central role in T-Mobile’s ability to merge with Sprint, presenting the U.S. government with a candidate to replace Sprint as the fourth facilities-based wireless operator. With Sprint, T-Mobile became the No. 2 wireless operator in the U.S. by subscribers and gained a boatload of 2.5 GHz spectrum that propelled its standing as the 5G network leader.

The feud surfaced when Dish revealed in February that T-Mobile had informed them that it was going to shut down the CDMA network this coming January. Dish was under the impression that it had up to three years, at least, to migrate Boost Mobile subscribers currently on the CDMA network to new handsets that work on T-Mobile’s newer network, or until July 2023.  

RELATED: T-Mobile, Dish take CDMA showdown to CPUC court

Last October, T-Mobile informed Dish that it was going through with the shutdown about a year and a half earlier than Dish expected. T-Mobile said it was all contractually legal, whereas Dish described it as the result of T-Mobile’s “greed.”

Note: This article was updated October 25 with statements from Dish.