The proposed $35 billion merger of Sprint Corp. and Nextel Communications Inc. would have little immediate effect on current customers of either company.
Completion of the merger is expected to take several months, and for better or worse, industry analysts say, big changes are several years away.
Will the merger mean existing Nextel and Sprint customers will have to buy new phones?
No, or at least not soon. Company officials say customers can continue using their phones once the merger is approved. Although the two companies will eventually use a new network based on Sprint's technology, they pledged to maintain Nextel's proprietary system through at least 2007.
What if I want new features?
Sprint is best known for its high-speed network; Nextel for its walkie-talkie, or push-to-talk, service. If you are an existing customer of one company and want to use the other company's technology in the short term, visit the carrier's stores and talk with a representative after the merger is completed.
Will Sprint's walkie-talkie customers be able to talk to Nextel's without new phones?
Yes. Soon after the merger is completed (which company officials hope will be by next summer), the two firms plan to set up a "gateway" that would let Sprint's Ready Link customers have push-button conversations with Nextel users, and vice versa. However, Sprint customers won't be able to use Nextel's system until 2006. That's when Sprint-Nextel plans to sell a "dual-mode" phone that would allow customers to use either system.
Will Nextel's customers have access to Sprint's high-speed data wireless service?
Once the deal closes, Nextel plans to offer its customers a data card that could be used in a laptop to gain access to Sprint's data network. It's too early to say how much this would cost, but since this is an extra service, Nextel customers should expect to pay some additional fees.
Will the companies' technologies ever be combined in a single network?
Yes; the new company hopes to have an integrated system by 2007.
Will the merger mean higher rates?
Company officials say no. "If you look at where rates have been in the past, they've been coming down," said Len J. Lauer, president and chief operating officer for Sprint. "Customers have been getting more minutes for the same dollars or less -- and more innovative services. We expect that to continue; it's a very competitive market."
Some analysts and consumer advocates are wary. The merger "is not about a price break," said telecommunications analyst Jeffrey Kagan. "It's about operability, making the carrier better, providing better service, about not having dead spots, providing push-to-talk and a great national network. I don't see prices dropping. I'd be delighted if they do, but this is not a pricing story."