T-Mobile’s Sievert recalls ‘wild run’ up to 5G era – Fierce Network

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  • CEO Mike Seivert recalls what it was like before T-Mobile merged with Sprint

  • Times have changed immensely between the 4G LTE era and 5G

  • Smaller markets, rural areas and enterprise customers are now within reach

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since T-Mobile closed on the acquisition of Sprint – a move that’s still being contested by a group of consumers via a class action lawsuit.

Nobody mentioned that during T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert’s appearance at the J.P. Morgan conference in Boston on Tuesday. However, it was a chance for Sievert to take a walk down memory lane and revisit all that has been accomplished since April 2020.

“What a wild run it’s been,” he commented. “We’ve wound up going from dead last in the 4G LTE era to first and best in the 5G era. I think what we’ve accomplished is building the world’s best 5G network and that’s fueling our results.”

T-Mobile is the consummate braggart, and Sievert didn’t miss a beat. “You look at the last quarter, we outgrew our industry benchmark competitors on service revenues 2:1 against the average of the other two,” he said. “Postpaid wireless service revenues of 6.5% growth were by far the highest in the industry. EBITDA, 8% growth, more than double the combined average of the other two, and cash flows grew in Q1 nearly 40%.”

Nowadays, T-Mobile is setting its sights on growth opportunities in smaller markets, rural areas and enterprise. For the enterprise segment, T-Mobile is the only carrier in the U.S. with a commercial nationwide 5G standalone (SA) network across mid-band and low-band spectrum and it’s able to offer advanced 5G capabilities like network slicing, he said.

“People have been talking about private networks for many years,” Sievert said. “We weren’t actually talking about all that. I put out a plan in ’21 that didn’t promise anybody anything from that … We just put our heads down and went and did it. Now, we’re winning these deals because we’re the only ones that are in a position to actually do it.”

Maintaining the 5G advantage  

Asked how T-Mobile will maintain its 5G network advantage compared to its peers, Sievert couldn’t resist an opportunity to throw a dig at Verizon.

T-Mobile’s 5G lead actually has grown a little bit in the last couple of quarters, he said.

“This is despite our competitors rolling out – especially Verizon rolling out an awful lot of that extremely expensive C-band spectrum that they bought,” he said. Verizon spent about $53 billion on C-band spectrum. T-Mobile acquired a treasure trove of 2.5 GHz spectrum via its $26 billion merger with Sprint.

T-Mobile doesn’t have just a faster 5G network but a more available one, he added. About 85% of T-Mobile’s network is on multiple layers across two tranches of mid-band and low-band and that works with advanced carrier aggregation in many places to enable “fantastic experiences,” he said.

“Our grid is sized for our spectrum,” he said. “This is an under-talked about thing in our industry. We have a network grid of macro towers that is spaced for our 2.5 GHz spectrum. Where we purchased C-band are only in places, by and large, where our grid is spaced for C-band.”

Interestingly, T-Mobile hasn’t really begun deploying its C-band in any material way, he said.

In addition, “we haven’t really done much refarming of our massive capabilities against LTE customers. Now 75% of our customers have 5G phones. So that’s an opportunity in the rest of ’24 and ’25 to begin the process of moving more of that spectrum over to the 5G sites,” he said.

“We have lots of room to run,” he added. “I think we’re really well positioned.”

Fiber ambitions

Of course, he was asked about the JV with EQT and plans to acquire FTTH provider Lumos. But for anyone wishing for a solid answer on the scale of T-Mobile’s fiber ambitions, it sounds as though we can just keep on waiting.

T-Mobile already is a scaled, nationwide marketer of broadband services, so its ability to add fiber is a “pretty incremental opportunity,” he said, noting that T-Mobile’s teams know how to sell broadband.

It’s interested in this fiber JV because it can make a return – a better one than a “purely disinterested financial investor” could. “Some smart money is going after pure fiber because it’s a good business. We think we can do better,” he said.

Still, they’re holding onto the wireless roots. “We love being the nation’s leading, mostly wireless pure play company. We think wireless is a great place to be and we also love this stage of the company, where we are returning significant capital to our shareholders who have gotten us to this place,” he said.

There’s no real interest in making a big change to its capital allocation than what’s already been communicated to investors. However, “that being said, we wake up every morning looking for opportunities on your behalf,” he added.

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