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What would a Sprint, T-Mobile merger mean for prepaid?

Late Monday into Tuesday word swirled: Sprint was in talks to acquire T-Mobile USA. This rumor is nothing new. We heard it last year, and I’m sure we heard it before that, too. But with T-Mobile slipping and Sprint finally having reversed their two-plus-year losses, the talks have renewed. They would face the same problems as previously, specifically that they currently run different network technologies, but a convergence under LTE could help fix those issues. Still, it doesn’t appear to be an easy transition, which is why I wouldn’t bet on this happening. But if it does, I wonder what would happen to prepaid at the combined company.

Sprint has made prepaid a priority. They have three separate arms: Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Common Cents Mobile. That has them fairly well positioned within the market. T-Mobile prepaid is also a popular service, though, and is currently helping compensate for losses on the postpaid end. Yet it doesn’t offer anything that is distinct from Sprint’s three-pronged attack.

The first question, of course, is of how the two companies would handle the merger. Would they just roll with having two separate networks under the same brand? That would work until the LTE convergence. But ultimately, if this happens I can see T-Mobile being completely flushed and Sprint taking over. A few years ago this would have been a preposterous notion, but it appears that Sprint has recovered some of its reputation and is back on the rise. T-Mobile seems to be the victim of this.

Considering Sprint’s prepaid prowess, I doubt T-Mobile’s services would survive. There’s already Boost, which has unlimited services, and Virgin Mobile, which offers a few monthly plans. Pay as you go is taken care of by Common Cents, which is cheaper than T-Mobile anyway. If these two brands do merge, I’d expect to see no more T-Mobile eventually.