Partners: Sprint, T-Mobile Merger Won't Make For A Strong Partner Program


As consolidation speculation swirls, solution providers say that a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile won't be in the best interest of the channel, business customers, or consumers.

Reports surfaced last week alleging that Sprint's parent company, Japan's SoftBank Group, would cede control of Sprint to T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, if the two carriers were to join forces. Sprint and T-Mobile are planning to begin negotiation talks in April, following the conclusion of ongoing airwave auction, according to Reuters.

Solution providers who partner with these two major U.S.-based wireless carriers told CRN that a merger wouldn't help -- and could likely hurt -- the channel strategy of the combined company with T-Mobile at the helm.

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[Related: Report: Softbank Willing To Give Up Sprint Control To Seal Merger Deal With T-Mobile]

Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint always understood the value of the channel, unlike some of its carrier competition, said Michael Bremmer, CEO of Moreno Valley, Calif.-based telecom consultancy firm T-Mobile, on the other hand, has led with marketing and programs geared toward consumers, so a Sprint takeover by T-Mobile wouldn't be positive news for the channel or business customers, he said.

"I don't think T-Mobile feels like they need the channel," Bremmer said.

T-Mobile launched its channel program in 2014 and has since focused on recruiting IT distributors and master agent partners to its program. Sprint, on the other hand, got an earlier start in the channel and introduced its first partner program in 2001. Sprint recently restructured its partner program within its wireline business unit, which focuses on telecom agent and master agent partners.

"Sprint's partner program was great, and T-Mobile's program is really convoluted, so I don't think there will be any improvement on the channel side unless a light really goes off inside that company," according to one solution provider that partners with Sprint and T-Mobile that asked not to be named.

T-Mobile's reseller agreements don't extend any discounts to partners, but its partner program offers commissions on its services and devices to solution providers who put business through an IT distributor or master agent, the solution provider explained.

"T-Mobile told us to sign up for the partner program through [an IT distributor], so if we do sell T-Mobile, we get a commission through the [distributor]. It doesn't change the price, but we make a little money on the commission -- it's really not a good business model," the partner said.

Softbank in 2014 attempted to kick off discussions around a T-Mobile purchase, but was shot down by U.S. antitrust regulators. A 2011 T-Mobile takeover attempt by Dallas-based carrier giant AT&T suffered the same fate, and the telecom giant walked away from its proposed $39 billion bid for Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile.

Wireless consolidation could stand to negatively impact consumers just as a much as business users and channel partners, TelecomQuotes' Bremmer said.

"T-Mobile not getting bought by AT&T was the best thing to happen in the U.S. cellular mobile market in a long time because it forced the suppliers to fight for the business," he said.

A Sprint-T-Mobile tie-up wouldn't be much better, and could increase the price for cellular data, which has been on the decline recently as carriers struggle to compete with one another in the saturated market, Bremmer added.

"Cell phone bills could double because competition is what is what keeps the pricing reasonable."