T-Mobile blinks, delays 3G CDMA shutdown by three months

T-Mobile said it will delay the shutdown of the 3G CDMA network it inherited from Sprint by three months – albeit begrudgingly.

"Recently it's become increasingly clear that some of those partners haven't followed through on their responsibility to help their customers through this shift. So, we're stepping up on their behalf," T-Mobile wrote in an announcement late Friday. "We have made the decision to extend our deadline for the CDMA sunset by three months to March 31, 2022."

Although T-Mobile didn't name Dish Network in its statement, the operator is likely referring to the company. For the better part of this year, Dish has conducted a public and private campaign against T-Mobile and its initial plan to shutter its 3G CDMA network by the end of this year.

Dish argued that T-Mobile's shutdown plan represented a backtrack on its initial promises to regulators as part of its efforts to acquire Sprint. T-Mobile, though, argued that was not the case, and that it provided Dish with plenty of time to prepare for the shutdown. Dish acquired roughly 9 million mobile customers from T-Mobile last year, and an unspecified portion of those customers still rely on T-Mobile's 3G CDMA network.

According to Cnet, Dish responded to T-Mobile's shutdown delay with its own fiery statement: "While additional time is welcome, three months is not nearly sufficient to protect the well over one million Boost consumers – many of whom are low-income – projected to still need access to this network beyond March 31, 2022," said Dish's Jeff Blum. "Given T-Mobile's new admission that continuing the operation of its CDMA network will have 'no material financial impact' to its business and 5G buildout, we urge the company to live up to its promises to regulators."

T-Mobile's decision to delay the shutdown of its network comes amid mounting pressure on the issue. The Department of Justice said it's monitoring the situation, and regulators in California appeared to side with Dish on the topic. Further, a wide range of companies – from home-alarm companies to those that track parolees with ankle bracelets – have been complaining broadly about the sunsetting of 3G in the US.

So far though, T-Mobile doesn't appear to have changed its plan to shut down its 3G UMTS network by July 1, 2022. Similarly, AT&T has remained silent about its own plan to shutter its 3G network in February 2022.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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