U.S. consumers open to T-Mobile- Sprint merger, but need more information to make up their mind

Our newly released May 2018 Telecom, Media & Technology Pulse survey looks in depth at consumer sentiments around the proposed T-Mobile / Sprint merger and its promise to accelerate the availability of 5G.

The findings, compiled from 2,000 U.S. adults between May 4-5, the week of the merger announcement, show that pragmatic and price sensitive U.S. consumers are generally open to the deal and its promised effects, but want to learn more before making up their mind.

Early views on the deal shows that a majority of the public, 59%, wants more information, with 22% supporting the deal and 20% opposing it. However, when they are presented a list of arguments for and against the merger that have become public, 56% of respondents come out in favor of the deal.

Importantly for the deal, over half current T-Mobile and Sprint customers believe the merger will result in a more reliable network, better value, and lower prices. Close to half of current subscribers also support the deal without government review.

However, non-directly-affected Americans – those who are not currently T-Mobile and Sprint customers – appear to oppose the merger and want the government’s review. Overall, 56% percent of the public would like the government’s approval.

“Perhaps the strongest case for the merger comes from directly impacted T-Mobile and Sprint customers, who are also the most price conscious among post-paid subscribers. T-Mobile and Sprint are price leaders and can make a credible claim about using the merger to the benefit of their customers,” said Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX and a researcher in the poll.

Added Nesho: “What we see from the findings is U.S. consumers are open to the benefits of a T-Mobile and Sprint merger, and the two companies have a real opportunity at convincing us of its merits. But consumers want more information and need to better understand the impact of new technologies like 5G. And, above all, consumers want prices to stay low.”

The findings indicate that education around 5G is important: at a time when 77% of Americans view technology as a net job creator, few realize the economic benefits of 5G.

Key take-aways from the May 2018 TMT Pulse survey include:

  1. Possible regulatory concerns about the merger appear to be overstated
  • T-Mobile and Sprint primarily compete with the rest of the market rather than one another. Each only contributed only 17% of new incoming subscribers to one another in the last year. It doesn’t seem like a consolidated company would significantly stifle completion, as some commentators have suggested.
  • Subscriber movements between T-Mobile and Sprint only account for a very small proportion of the industry’s switching dynamic. Only 4% of prospective switchers are planning to move between T-Mobile and Sprint and only 4% of switchers in the past year moved between the two companies’ subscriber bases. Again, this reinforces the first point.
  • Consumers say that they have a lot of choice in selecting wireless services and smartphone manufacturers, but the majority do not feel the same way about ISPs and Cable.
  • Consumers are sensitive to pricing in the industry and open to new providers of wireless services, suggesting openness and strong impulses to cross-industry competition.
    • A majority of consumers are open to purchasing wireless services from a cable provider.
    • Consumers are most likely to say that cable service providers and internet service providers’ prices are too high.
  1. After being walked through both positive and negative arguments about the deal, 56% come out in support of the merger. Directly affected consumers (T-Mobile & Sprint) support the merger without government review and think it will lead to better value and lower costs; non-directly-affected consumers seem to be against it. 
  • Within one week of its announcement, 56% of the US public had heard about the merger as well as a majority of wireless consumers among the big wireless carriers.
  • Consumers are primarily concerned about price increases resulting from the merger, but Sprint and T-Mobile customers (who would be impacted the most) are favorable to the merger. .
  • T-Mobile and Sprint lead in price offerings and their customers say that price is the most satisfying element of their wireless service provider, while Verizon and AT&T customers cite reliability.
  1. Consumers are starting to learn about the impact of 5G, and are largely favorable to it but more education is required.
  • Only about half of US consumers have heard about 5G – a demographic that skews younger, college educated, urban, and higher income.
  • A wide majority of consumers think that 5G will increase competition between wireless, cable, media, and technology companies, but a majority also believe it will prices on wireless services and personal technology.
  • When it comes to 5G, consumers are primarily concerned about needing to replace their existing devices.
  • Almost half of consumers that have heard of 5G say that it will enable ultra-fast wireless services, but few realize jobs and economic growth impact.
  • More than one-in-three consumers (a plurality) think that the U.S. is the global leader in 5G, but the 5G field is still thought to be largely unsettled.
  • However nearly two-thirds of consumers are also concerned about the U.S. losing technological supremacy to another country in the near future.
  • In general, technology is viewed widely as having a positive impact on all facets of consumer lives.
  • More than three-quarters of consumers see technology as a net job creator.
  1. Other insights:
  • The New T-Mobile would be a strong competitor in the industry.
  • Of the four major carriers, Verizon and T-Mobile customers are tied in customer satisfaction and lead the pack
  • T-Mobile and Sprint lead in price offering their customers say that price is the most satisfying element of their wireless service provider, while Verizon and AT&T cite reliability

We invite you take a look at our full findings here.