T-Mobile-Sprint merger: Will this lead to higher prices and fewer jobs? | USA Today

NEW YORK — A $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would unite the cell-phone carriers that have have battled for customers by abandoning long-reviled payment plans and adding a relentless stream of perks.

The question for the government regulators who must bless the deal, and all of us: are the good times over?

Under its branded “Uncarrier” corporate persona, T-Mobile has been a disrupter in wireless, the first carrier to do away with onerous contracts, pay off early termination fees for customers willing to switch to its service, and it helped stoke the spread of “unlimited” data pricing plans.

As a competitor, Sprint has been right on its heels — and eventually, No. 1 Verizon and second-place AT&T — followed with many of the hallmark features.

Critics of the deal are concerned that a post-merger environment could temper if not eliminate such practices altogether, especially as four major U.S. wireless carriers are whittled down to three. The new company would have more than 90 million retail wireless phone customers and a market share of about 30%, according to research firm Recon Analytics.

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T-Mobile-Sprint merger: Will this lead to higher prices and fewer jobs?.