T-Mobile CTO discusses planned integration of Sprint network

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told investors and analysts at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit that if the company's merger with Sprint is approved, the process of integrating the two networks will take two to three years and will look something like the integration of T-Mobile and MetroPCS. He said T-Mobile will use the same "secret sauce" it used to migrate MetroPCS customers to its network.

"You identify the anchor network as we would call it, which is the T-Mobile network. You build and light up all of the spectrum assets of the company on that combined network," Ray said. "You add some scale to it, some density in key markets from the other network where it makes sense to avoid building that cost in over the following years. And then you start to migrate customers across from the Sprint network onto the New T-Mobile network," he concluded. "That sounds very simple and the beautiful thing is it actually is pretty simple if you go at it that way."

Ray went on to say that there are more than 20 million Sprint customers with handsets that are fully compatible with the T-Mobile network. He said that in some ways, bringing Sprint customers onto the T-Mobile network will be easier than bringing MetroPCS's CDMA customer base onto T-Mobile's GSM network.

T-Mobile appears ready to get started as soon as regulators give it a green light. Ray said the company is involved in talks with three different agencies: the FCC, the DOJ and CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in U.S. Companies. 

Ray said the FCC is more public than the other agencies when it comes to sharing information about how its review of the deal is structured. He gave his audience an idea of how the talks are going by paraphrasing a comment he said was made by one commissioner during discussions about how the merged company will compete with Verizon and AT&T. He said the commissioner told him: "Rather than kick these guys in the shins you can now punch them in the face."

T-Mobile also intends to take on the cable TV industry if the deal is approved. Ray said the combined company's fixed wireless offering would have "the ability to massively disrupt the cable industry.“

But first, T-Mobile and Sprint need to work their way through Washington, a process that Ray said is already well underway. He thinks final approval for the deal is a year away.

"We're estimating somewhere in the Q2 [2019] timeframe we'd look to see deal approval," Ray said. "We're excited to see this thing move forward at pace ... I think DOJ has been pretty public in saying they want to move through these types of deals at a pace and scale that we haven't seen in prior administrations. So we'd love to see this thing move fast. We're going to put a lot of time and effort into the deal. We have to sell our story and make sure people fully understand the true depth of what we can bring here, both financially, from a competitive perspective, and from a network perspective."