How The Sprint T-Mobile Merger Impacts Landlords

By Nick G. Foster

August 17, 2020

A question we frequently receive is, “How will I be impacted by the Sprint T-Mobile merger?”. Before we answer that question, let’s find out how did we get here.

How & Why Did The Merger Start?

In 2018 Softbank, Sprint’s majority owner, reached an agreement to buy T-Mobile. Any merger would require the review and approval of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The DOJ would look at antitrust concerns while the FCC would be concerned with what is best for the US consumer. It was speculated at the time that the Sprint brand would disappear and T-Mobile’s brand and flamboyant CEO John Legere would be in charge post merger. We now know that John Legere is retiring, maybe riding off into the sunset to write more cooking books.

Sprint T-Mobile Faced Legal Challenges To Get Here

It was announced in February 2020 by Federal Judge Victor Marrero the United States District Court in Manhattan that Judge Marrero has ruled in favor of T-Mobile’s then valued $26 billion takeover of Sprint.

The challenge against the merger was filed in a suit by attorney generals from 13 states and the District of Columbia. This ruling will combine the third and fourth largest wireless carriers creating a new wireless carrier with more than 100 million users.

After the merger is complete the plan was that the majority of Sprint customers will have T-Mobile plans. Customers of Sprint’s pre-paid brands (Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid), will become Dish Network customers.

Sprint T-Mobile Merger Closes $30 Billion Deal

T-Mobile and Sprint announced the closing of their merger on April 1, 2020. The colorful T-Mobile CEO John Legere stepped down as CEO and the more buttoned-up Mike Sievert took the helm of the combined company. The company uses the name T-Mobile moving forward and now has approximately 100 million customers. This allowed T-Mobile to surpass AT&T as the number two largest wireless provider.

T-Mobile agreed to enter into a limited seven year term deal with Dish to lease Dish access to its network. This is supposed to give Dish time to build its own network, however, many skeptics believe Dish will coast on their limited-term deal and then sell of their spectrum holdings in the future for a profit. Skeptics further believe Dish never has any intentions of truly building a new wireless network.

What Does That Mean For Sprint & T-Mobile Landlords?

We have seen a slow-down in T-Mobile leasing activity while they figure out their new network, but not a complete stop. Some projects have grind to a halt, however at Airwave Advisors we have managed to get some lease renewals completed with the new combined entity.

In 2018 it was forecasted that the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, who operate a total of 110,000 towers, would cause the companies to shut down 35,000 towers and build 10,000 new towers. This would be due to overlapping coverage of towers due to the merger and the filling of holes in the network.

It is anticipated that Crown Castle who receives 20% of their tower revenues from T-Mobile and 13% of their tower revenues from Sprint will be hurt the most with the merger.

Crown Castle’s top competitor American Tower Corporation on the other hand has less exposure to the merger with T-Mobile representing 9% of their US based revenue and Sprint representing 8%.

As far as private landlords, we anticipate there will be many site decommissions and rents will stop coming in within the next 36 months.

If you have both Sprint and T-Mobile on your property there is a chance that one these tenants will disappear. If they say a picture is worth a thousands words then the one below of network overlap in T-Mobile & Sprint’s network from Mosaik reads like a book.

Sprint T-Mobile Merger Cell Tower Overlap

What Is The Process To Determine A Decomission?

Right now we are seeing T-Mobile evaluate all the Sprint sites and the ones they do not want to keep they are offering up to DISH. DISH can then decide if they want to take on that cell site, or if they want to pass. Only after a site has been passed over by both T-Mobile & DISH will the site be determined not of value to either network and decommissioned.

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12 Comments

  1. Tim on August 18, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Crown Castle owns the current T-Mobile site on my property. Is there a chance they will be selling it back to the new T-Mobile or will they just keep trying to get me to let them expand it for free? There is no current Sprint coverage that overlaps my site and all the techs that come out say the site is critical. Have not heard from Crown regarding their proposed expansion in a year.

    • Nick G. Foster on August 19, 2020 at 8:44 am

      Hi Tim,

      It sounds like you have a great site, so I would not be concerned. I am not aware of Crown Castle selling sites back to T-Mobile and I doubt that would happen in the near future. I would not let Crown Castle expand their site for free, or grant them an option to expand their site. If they want more of your land, you can dictate the price and say yes, or no to their expansion request.

      All the best,

      Nick G. Foster

  2. Richard H Giebitz on May 5, 2020 at 8:51 am

    This is so hard to figure out. I am a private single tower owner. I have both T-Mobile and Sprint there now. As the merger progressed Sprint kept building the newest 2019 Samsung cell system on my tower. I couldn’t figure out why they would keep building the newest equipment out there on my site , as they will be decommissioning one of them. T-Mobile was building and planning their 600 MHZ panel construction at the same time.. Makes little sense to me. I asked the installation contractors what there prospective was, they indicated the Sprint MMBS was going to Dish. Black dot is still on my tail often. If T-Mobile bails one contract from my tower, they will have to pay a big price to remove all the fiber and panels they constructed. It is in my contract site will be restored to original configuration upon closing. This site covers (2) communities of 20,000, plus traffic on US highway 50. What dows your crystal ball say ? Thank You !

    • Nick G. Foster on May 5, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for reaching out with your question. As far as Blackdot, you can ignore them. In regards to T-Mobile and Sprint and if one of your tenants will disappear, it is very possible. It is forecasted that some Sprint sites will migrate to DISH, but not all. If I were in your position I would just wait and see what happens. I would not grant any rent reductions. I would see where the chips fall, if they fall at all.

      All the best,

      Nick G. Foster

  3. jor on April 10, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Black dot offering me 150 X the monthly rent for tmobile. What’s the catch there?

    • Nick G. Foster on April 13, 2020 at 8:23 am

      Hi Jor,

      The catch is you would be selling your T-Mobile lease for cheap. If you want a top of the market offer to purchase your lease, give us a call.

      All the best,

      Nick G. Foster

  4. zafar mohammed on April 7, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Is there maps that show Tower concentrations and grandfathered towers in different areas.

    • Nick G. Foster on April 13, 2020 at 8:22 am

      Hi Zafar,

      There are no maps that I am aware of that show grandfathered towers. The FCC keeps a database of towers registered with them that is available to the public. You may want to check out their website.

      All the best,

      Nick G. Foster

  5. NICK CLAYTON on April 7, 2020 at 11:09 am

    I also heard that some of the Sprint Towers ( were there is also a T Mobil tower ) will be saved and utilized for 5G and or other frequencies that require additional real estate .. ??

    • Nick G. Foster on April 7, 2020 at 11:16 am

      Hi Nick,

      It is possible some of the towers may stay, or they may be transferred over to DISH as part of the merger arrangement. As far as saving towers to utilize 5G, I could only imagine that scenario taking place in an urban environment where the first tower is not sufficient. I can’t imagine that scenario taking place in rural areas.
      All the best,

      Nick G. Foster

  6. Don horton on April 7, 2020 at 9:46 am

    How does this effect an offer I have to build a tower on my prop @ 35051 in Alabama contract was signed approx 1 yr ago for $3100 month no construction has started yet tkx don horton

    • Nick G. Foster on April 7, 2020 at 10:25 am

      Hi Don,

      I think that the other party you signed the contract with may not be legitimate. As a result they may never intend to build. $3,100.00 per month in rent to lease raw land in Alabama is extremely high. Hopefully I am wrong and you will financially benefit as a result of my incorrect opinion.

      All the best,

      Nick G. Foster

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Nick Foster Airwave Advisors

About Nick G. Foster

Since founding Airwave Advisors® in 2014, Mr. Foster has added value to over 400 clients ranging from the State of Nevada, City of Beverly Hills, to Habitat For Humanity. Mr. Foster focuses on cell tower lease renewals, buyouts, new lease negotiation, and cell site lease management. Prior to starting Airwave Advisors® Mr. Foster founded and led the Cell Site Services Group within nationwide commercial real estate services leader Cassidy Turley (now known as Cushman & Wakefield).