OP ED: Rural Missourians to benefit from T-Mobile and Sprint combining


By Andrea Rice, Member, Missouri Farm Bureau

The announcement of the T-Mobile and Sprint merger should bring excitement and a sense of innovation – especially for the people of rural Missouri and emergency responders. The new T- Mobile will lead the creation of a nationwide 5G network with the scope needed to develop massive improvements for the United States, with an extra glimmer of hope felt by families living in rural areas.

I’m thankful to live on a farm in rural Missouri with my husband and three children. Althoughwe enjoy the tranquil atmosphere associated with our rural lifestyle, there is still much need for access to technology. It isn’t uncommon for livestock to be equipped with tags allowing forfarm-to-table data or precision practices for row crop production. This gives farmers the ability to use natural resources to their maximum potential while respecting their limitations. There is no sign of this relationship between production agriculture and technology changing any time soon, especially with the implementation of a nationwide 5G network.

For example, there are already pilot programs for “smart farming” and agricultural IoT (internet of things) devices, which would provide better measurement of production on a day-to-day basis. This could be in the form of sensors communicating moisture, fertilization and nutrient levels or predicted data for weather patterns to improve crop management and livestock analysis. This all requires a broadly available nationwide network – not one isolated to hotspots or in urban areas only. Smart farming will be absolutely necessary in order to assist farmers in feeding an ever-increasing population and combatting the unknown stresses of weather.

In addition, businesses and families in these rural communities rarely have the opportunity to choose from more than one or two wireless, broadband or cable providers. However, with the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint, the possibility of more robust competition is becoming a reality. Competition that will be created by having a stronger wireless company providing more rural coverage means a better product at a better price.

With a nationwide 5G network in place, emergency responses and patient care should also experience benefits. In situations where every second counts, technology could dramatically improve patient care in rural areas. With 5G networks, improved mapping and real-time data will lead to decreased emergency response time. Also, patient data could be transmitted, allowing doctors in the emergency room to have a visual of the patient while in transport. For example, a doctor could request and view a CT scan before the patient arrives, allowing the medical team to prepare accordingly.

It is not uncommon for people in rural areas to travel over 60 miles to a hospital or 200 miles for a healthcare specialist. 5G technology could also be utilized for rural clinics to provide accurate information to specialists. With 5G networks, it could be possible for patients to wear medical sensors remotely with vital signs transmitted to their respected health care providers.

There are already doctors utilizing consultations with the use of webcams and 5G technology would take this to the next level.

The combination of T-Mobile and Sprint will take today’s wireless technology from Ford’s Model T to Tesla’s Model X. With the new T-Mobile, resources will be available that should provide consumers with lower prices, higher quality products and increased competition. Rural Missourians will benefit greatly with more options for broadband and improved emergency services. The combined company will be a win-win and should be approved by all necessary parties.