Guest Commentary

Sprint/T-Mobile merger shows promise for the Kansas City region

Tracey Osborne Oltjen, president and CEO of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce
Tracey Osborne Oltjen, president and CEO of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce

With roots dating back over 100 years, Sprint is a household name in the Kansas City area. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when the April 29 announcement of a merger agreement between T-Mobile and Sprint created buzz and anticipation, as well as some uncertainty. This is expected with change, especially when it involves one of our cherished local brands.

As both companies explore a potential merger, city and business leaders, employees and area residents have been closely following developments surrounding this transaction. Speculation now begins to take shape for us locally and around the nation as details of the merger develop.

The merger builds upon Sprint’s footprint in the region and promises positive impacts for economic growth, job creation and telecommunication leadership. As our region’s sixth-largest private sector employer, Sprint plays an integral role in supporting the community and its people. Beyond Sprint’s economic impact as an employer are its hallmarks of civic leadership and philanthropy. The company has made significant capital investment in projects such as the Sprint Center. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll find Sprint team members engaged throughout the region and the country, leading civic and philanthropic organizations to improve our quality of life.

As it aspired to continued innovation and growth in the rapidly-changing world of wireless communication and connectivity, we’ve recognized that change could come for Sprint. This merger provides opportunities, as the new combined company promises positive impacts focusing both on people and investment. While skepticism about those promises is both healthy and expected, we’re pleased with the transparency provided in the merger announcement and subsequent communications regarding net job growth and investment.

The news that Overland Park would serve as a second headquarters in the combined company is welcome. The promise that job growth will be a net positive for the combined company over what exists today, with leadership positions on both campuses, is encouraging. This recognizes the incredible assets our region and Sprint bring to the table: Kansas City’s innovative, hard-working talent, low cost of living and the unique real estate asset of the Sprint campus in Overland Park. This positions us well for Kansas City to remain at the center of wireless innovation for the combined company.

Basic infrastructure used to mean roads, water and wastewater. Now it’s also connectivity of people and data. The new T-Mobile stands to produce benefits far beyond the Kansas City region with promises of expansive coverage, including in underserved rural communities. With a mix of low-, mid- and high-band spectrum, the new company would be uniquely positioned to develop and deploy a nationwide 5G network. Estimates are that 5G could provide 20 times the speed of 4G. That means you could download 10 movies over 5G in the time it would take to download half of the first movie on 4G.

And the Internet of Things? That’s nearly everything with an on/off switch that can connect to the internet and exchange data, from our phones to our cars, refrigerators, coffee makers, lamps, garage doors, wearables, traffic signals and oil rigs. Building a 5G network means we’ll be able to leverage the full power of the next wave of connected devices, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. This brings great opportunities for telemedicine, distance learning and connecting first responders.

The new T-Mobile would build on Sprint’s regional commitment and recently-announced national retail and network improvements. It would bring targeted benefits for us in Kansas City, plus deliver connectivity and access nationwide. We are proud of the Sprint legacy, and look forward to the bright future that lies ahead with the new T-Mobile.

Tracey Osborne Oltjen is president and CEO of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce