Sue Marek at Fierce Wireless wrote a really nice piece on what’s happening with T-Mobile here in the USA. As a T-Mobile customer for many, many years, as well as someone who has roamed on it with Google Fi and Truphone, and used the no cost T-Mobile global 5G roaming recently, Sue’s reporting is as thought provoking as it is on point.
For starters T-Mo has done a far better job with 5G than either AT&T or Verizon. They’ve done that with a far more grounded, focused and real approach than the other two, who remain stuck in the past, when telcos were monopolies and where they could pretty much count on a steady diet of landline revenue (which they still do).
AT&T started their evolutionary 5G claims with what was really enhanced LTE, and Verizon, well, their approach and efforts were based all pre-pandemic, and when people stopped going to the office, they had to scramble many months later to put 5G where the people actually were.
Next is the whole issue of spectrum. T-Mobile’s purchase of Sprint gave them the kind of spectrum that was fast, middle distance and which worked indoors and out. It also connected to one of the most rock-solid, in the ground fiber builds, as Sprint had networking down to a science, something many overlook, or never knew.
One big factor is the stability in leadership at T-Mobile, especially with their CTO, who has guided the 5G and network thinking is something neither AT&T or Verizon can claim. They’ve just had too many shuffles of the deck chairs, like on the Titanic, to enable anyone’s vision to become reality (AT&T loses of Ralph De La Vega and Glenn Lurie are just two examples.)
Lastly, the fiber play by T-Mobile is happening at a time when the public is leaving the cable operators in droves-at least Comcast and Charter’s Spectrum. No one like their cable company, and while they often have monopoly like control, that’s being challenged, and since the MSO’s need revenue, desperation often makes for strange bedfellows, so there will likely be some deals made –wait until next summers’ Allen & Company soiree in Sun Valley—where T-Mobile comes away with something.
The fiber play though is more than just to sell T-Mobile TV, a platform that just works, but which they overpaid for. Having fiber in the ground allows the un-carrier to hang all kinds of technology off of it. They can put 5G microcells and microsites anywhere the fiber goes, saturating their customer base either with 5G or WiFi.
They also can go into the storefront small business market, and sell in services like Dialpad, which they took a strategic investment in. By having fiber in the ground, T-Mo gets to fill in coverage gaps that are right now only at LTE speed with blazing fast WiFi or 5G, so the idea of a fiber diet, especially in high-rise communities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago makes total sense as cell coverage doesn’t usually get high as the antennas are pointed down to the street, not up to the roof.
This also opens them up to alignment with neutral and carrier DAS players who want into the buildings in the worst ways, especially hotels where cell coverage is more like Russian Roulette depending on which floor your on, and which side of the building your in.
Yes, T-Mobile has a lot going for it. Now all it needs to do is keep going on its planned path.