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T-Mobile has merged with Sprint. Here's what it means for your devices

First off, don't worry: Your Sprint phone will continue to work.

T-Mobile Sprint merger

T-Mobile and Sprint are finally together. 

Angela Lang/CNET

T-Mobile has at last merged with Sprint, uniting the nation's third- and fourth-largest carriers and shaking up how some of you may get your wireless service. But this massive shift in the industry brings with it questions for people with T-Mobile and Sprint devices.

With more than 100 million users, the two carriers now have a customer base closer in scale to larger rivals AT&T and Verizon. Having one less wireless player elicited concern from regulators that easing competitive pressure would mean higher prices, but T-Mobile has maintained it would continue to serve as the aggressive "Un-carrier" underdog representing consumers. 

But there will be big changes coming, especially for Sprint customers who all of a sudden have a new provider. From devices and 5G to rate plans and features, here is a breakdown of what you can expect. 

Will my phones still work? 

Sprint 5G

Sprint phones, like the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, will be able to work on T-Mobile's network. 

Lynn La/CNET

Just because the merger has closed does not mean that your Sprint phone will no longer connect. Both T-Mobile and Sprint's networks will still be up and running, and devices that connect to them should still be able to do so for now without any interruptions.

Will my coverage be improved? 

With Sprint now joining T-Mobile users on both networks should start to see improvements in coverage. In fact, this process has already started, with T-Mobile expanding a roaming agreement to let Sprint users onto its network as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic

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What about T-Mobile customers?

T-Mobile customers will gain extra capacity thanks to Sprint's spectrum. This should mean faster speeds and better performance.

"More spectrum means better performance, whether it's 5G or (4G) LTE," says Walter Piecyk, an analyst at LightShed Partners. "And T-Mobile is buying more spectrum."

Will I need to get a new T-Mobile phone if I'm on Sprint? 

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Recent phones like the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S20 should be able to take full use of Sprint and T-Mobile's combined network.

Angela Lang/CNET

Nope. And if you bought a phone in the past few years -- such as a recent iPhone or Galaxy -- it likely already has support for both T-Mobile and Sprint's respective networks. In February, a Sprint spokeswoman said that "about one-half," or about 20 million users, of the company's branded customers "have devices that are already compatible with T-Mobile's network."

Exactly how much of T-Mobile's network your phone will be able to tap into, such as T-Mobile's wider-ranging 600MHz spectrum (also known as Band 71), will depend on how recent it is. 

If you have an iPhone XR, XS or later you should be good for the full T-Mobile experience, but devices older than 2018 may not be able to tap into the full capabilities of T-Mobile. A full list of devices that support T-Mobile's 600MHz spectrum can be found here

What about 5G? 

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New 5G phones, like Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, can support all three flavors of 5G. 

Juan Garzon/CNET

When it comes to 5G the situation is a bit more complicated due to, well, the complicated nature of 5G in the US as a whole. 

Some of Sprint's 5G phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, should be able to tap into T-Mobile's higher-frequency millimeter wave 5G network that has launched in pockets of six cities like New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. They will not, however, be able to use T-Mobile's low-band 5G network that it has launched nationwide.

The same is true for T-Mobile's 5G phones that it launched last year. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which can tap into its millimeter-wave network, will be able to use Sprint's midband 5G network that is currently live in 9 US markets (and parts of Miami) but will still not be able to use T-Mobile's own nationwide low-band network. 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G and OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, which launched late last year on T-Mobile, will be able to use T-Mobile's low-band 5G and Sprint's midband network, but not T-Mobile's millimeter-wave. 

The cheaper Galaxy S20 5G similarly will only work with T-Mobile's low-band and Sprint's midband. 

For the best 5G experience that can tap into everything a combined Sprint and T-Mobile will offer -- including T-Mobile's low-band and millimeter-wave networks and Sprint's midband 5G spectrum -- you'll want to have a 2020 phone such as Samsung's Galaxy S20 Plus 5G or Ultra 5G. 

Both of those Samsung phones, regardless of if you bought them at Sprint or T-Mobile, should work with the other's 5G networks.

What about plans? 

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Mike Sievert, the new CEO of the new T-Mobile, says Sprint customers can keep their plans.

T-Mobile

As part of its efforts to get the deal approved by regulators, T-Mobile promised not to raise rates for at least three years. This means that you won't have to give up your current T-Mobile plan to take advantage of the new network, at least not right away. 

T-Mobile also is the one major carrier that currently doesn't require a special plan to use 5G. 

On Wednesday T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert told CNET that Sprint users will similarly still be able to keep their current plans

What about Boost? 

Those on Sprint's prepaid brand Boost will be going to Dish as part of a divestiture T-Mobile agreed to with the Justice Department. Dish, which plans to launch its own wireless network, has previously said that it would close the deal to acquire Boost and spectrum from Sprint within 30 days of T-Mobile closing its deal.

Although it is unclear exactly what Dish's wireless offering will look like, the satellite provider is able to use T-Mobile's network for the next seven years. For now, nothing changes to the service or plans here either.