California regulators say T-Mobile misled over Sprint merger

A mobile phone running on the T-Mobile wireless network. (Photo: The Desk)

California utility regulators have accused T-Mobile of misleading them with its plan to provide support to Boost Mobile customers as a condition for merging with Sprint several years ago.

In a ruling issued on Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said T-Mobile falsely “made statements under oath” when it promised to provide access to Sprint’s legacy CDMA network to Boost Mobile customers until those customers could be migrated over to Dish Network’s 4G LTE or 5G network.

T-Mobile divested Boost Mobile to Dish Network in July 2020 in order to satisfy regulatory concerns over its acquisition of Sprint. After the merger was complete, T-Mobile announced plans to sunset Sprint’s CDMA network, a move that provoked Dish Network to charge T-Mobile in the court of public opinion with going back on its pre-merger promises.

Last week, CPUC regulators agreed, saying a notice published on T-Mobile’s website to “retire” Sprint’s CDMA network by 2022 was “inconsistent” with a CPUC order handed down last year concerning the transfer of assets and control from Sprint’s California-based businesses to T-Mobile.

For its part, T-Mobile has asserted no wrongdoing, saying for months that it continues to provide support to Dish Network and Boost Mobile as promised. The company says its plans concerning the CDMA network shutdown was not inconsistent with its pre-merger pledge to Dish Network.

But others have noted that a shutdown of Sprint’s CDMA network could adversely affect some of Boost Mobile’s prepaid customers, since older phones and other devices still in use by a handful of customers are incompatible with T-Mobile’s GSM network and newer technologies.

On Friday, the CPUC said the proposal to shut down Sprint’s network next year contradicted a pledge made by T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray that “service to existing Sprint CDMA and LTE customers will be maintained until they are migrated to the ‘New T-Mobile’ network as customers of New T-Mobile or Dish,” and that the company was squarely focused on making sure “that no Sprint customer…suffers anything approaching a degraded experience” during that transition.

“Based on preliminary determined facts…there is reasonable basis to conclude that T-Mobile, through its officers, agents and/or attorneys, misrepresented material facts and misled the Commission,” the CPUC said. “The statements made in testimony appear to directly contradict claims in the T-Mobile response.”

T-Mobile has now been ordered by the CPUC to present evidence as to why the phone company believes it should not face sanctions and potential fines stemming from the alleged misrepresentation over its plans concerning Boost Mobile. A hearing has been set before an administrative law judge for September 20 to settle the matter.

For its part, Dish Network appears to be moving on from its relationship with T-Mobile: Last month, the satellite company said it had reached an agreement with AT&T that will see the wireless company providing network support for its prepaid customers as Dish Network continues to build out its 5G network.

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