Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler doesn't believe T-Mobile and Sprint's claims that their merger would be the best way to ensure the fifth generation of mobile networks is deployed across the United States in a timely manner. In a guest editorial published by the Brookings Institute on Wednesday, Mr. Wheeler wrote that shared 5G infrastructure would be the optimal solution for ensuring swift 5G buildouts in the country, proposing that the federal government becomes one of the wireless players contributing to the initiative instead of approving the recently proposed tie-up.
The industry veteran also reiterated on some previously expressed skepticism regarding the 5G argument attached to the consolidation pitch, noting how both T-Mobile and Sprint promised to be competitive in the 5G segment long before their merger was announced, yet are now claiming they aren't able to do so unless they're combined. While Mr. Wheeler hasn't argued that a consolidated entity wouldn't be able to deploy 5G more swiftly than the two companies would separately, he asserted that removing competition from the wireless market in the country is not the optimal method for ensuring the U.S. doesn't fall behind in the global 5G race. "The "China is winning on 5G" argument of Sprint and T-Mobile is creative, and probably the only rationale they could concoct after the government twice before rejected their proposal to reduce national wireless competition," the former FCC head wrote, reflecting on the fact that Sprint and T-Mobile already dropped their tie-up ambitions twice in the last four years before finally agreeing to a deal this April.
Instead of reducing the number of national mobile service providers in the country, the existing telecom giants should cooperate with the federal government to build a shared 5G network, Mr. Wheeler argued. The idea has already been floated around the White House, according to a leaked memo from January, albeit a number of Trump administration officials originally only considered a fully nationalized 5G network before dropping the concept, as per recent reports. Mr. Wheeler is instead suggesting a solution that has Washington collaborating with the industry as one of the wireless players and not the only owner of such infrastructure. Doing so would avoid buildouts of redundant facilities, consequently accelerating deployment and maximizing value for private investors, while also protecting the U.S. national security interests, the industry veteran said.