LIVE FROM CES 2017, LAS VEGAS: Outspoken T-Mobile US boss John Legere welcomed the arrival of President-elect Donald Trump and hinted it may open up opportunities for a renewed attempt to merge with Sprint, as the company unveiled its latest ‘uncarrier initiative’ at a press event this morning.
The last few years has seen speculation grow around the potential for consolidation between the top four US mobile operators, but such moves have always been thwarted by regulatory bodies. However, Legere believes a Trump administration may offer a light-touch regulatory approach.
“It’s hard not to be excited about an environment that’s going to be less restrictive,” he enthused. “We don’t know what the plan is but we’re excited. The environment will be conducive to us rapidly expanding our business.”
Legere himself has made no secret of his desire to head up a T-Mobile/Sprint combination, should it ever happen. Indeed, at this morning’s event he brazenly predicted that he will be the only CEO from the top four US operators (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless) to still be in the same job by the end of this year.
“It’s clear that Sprint needs to do something,” commented Legere, referencing the operator’s troubles. He noted that many industry observers believe a sensible option for number four player Sprint would be to merge with T-Mobile or a cable player.
Legere’s Trump comments also reflect a softened stance from the T-Mobile boss. Both men are known for their unabashed Twitter personalities and have sparred with each other on numerous occasions on the social network.
T-Mobile One unlimited plan
Meanwhile the main focus of this morning’s press conference was the news that the company is switching to a single, unlimited data offering and simplifying its pricing so the advertised rate is always what a user pays, including taxes and fees.
Starting January 22, the company will eliminate its older plans. New customers will be able to get only the T-Mobile One ($40/month) plan (existing customers can keep their old plans.)
“The Internet wasn’t meant to be metered in bits and bytes, so it’s insane that wireless companies are still making you buy it this way. The rate plan is dead – it’s a fossil from a time when wireless was metered by every call or text,” said Legere. “The Internet was meant to be unlimited, and at T-Mobile, we believe that everyone should have unlimited mobile Internet. With the moves we’re making today, T-Mobile One is now the one plan that works for everyone.”
For people not ready for an unlimited data plan, the company introduced ‘Kickback,’ a program that gives people who use less than 2 gigabytes of data (roughly eight hours of streaming video) a month a credit of $10.
Sneak peek of financials
Legere also announced another record-setting year of growth at T-Mobile. During the 4th quarter, the company reported 2.1 million net customer additions, including 933,000 branded postpaid phone net customer additions and the best ever fourth quarter branded postpaid phone churn at 1.28 per cent. Over the course of 2016, 8.2 million customers in total joined the self-styled “Uncarrier”, including an expected industry-leading 3.3 million branded postpaid phone customers.
4G powering gigabit speeds
Elsewhere at the event, CTO Neville Ray urged the industry not to get carried away with 5G hype. In the last week the US’ top mobile operators have all issued statements around their ability to soon offer gigabit services via 4G, and T-Mobile believes it will be the first to do so on a commercial basis.
“This industry will compete around 4G for the next decade,” said Ray. “It’s really important the industry moves to invest in this.”