T-Mobile USA is German giant Deutsche Telekom's biggest business outside Europe. The company has positioned itself since 2013 as "the Un-carrier", a challenger brand among US mobile providers: "Un-satisfied with the status quo. Un-afraid to innovate." In honour of that branding it has launched a series of aggressive marketing propositions, including easier upgrades, no charges for international data roaming, free iPhone trials, free music streaming and so on. In 2018 it launched mobile streaming of selected cable channels following a deal to acquire specialist supplier Layer3. The business was originally formed from the acquisition of local provider VoiceStream in 2001, and steadily expanded through a series of further purchases. By the early 2010s, though, it still lagged far behind local giants AT&T and Verizon. An attempt to sell out entirely to AT&T was blocked by regulators in 2011. A new potential escape route was forged in 2012 with an arrangement to merge T-Mobile into smaller publicly quoted rival MetroPCS. Under unconventional and hard-charging new CEO John Legere, the resulting business underwent an extraordinary rebirth over the next few years. T-Mobile USA steadily added on new customers, often at the expense of main rival Sprint, eventually supplanting the latter as the local #3 wireless provider, though still some way behind the two leaders. Several times over the next few years, T-Mobile engaged in talks to merge with the ever-weaker Sprint to create a stronger challenger to AT&T and Verizon. Finally, in 2018 an outline deal was reached whereby T-Mobile would acquire Sprint for around $26bn in stock. Deutsche Telekom would end up with a 42% stake in the business, while Sprint owner Softbank would have 27%. The merged entity would manage around 100m direct customers on a proforma basis (excluding MVNO or wholesale users), around the same level as Verizon (currently 116m) and AT&T (93m). However, the would-be partners have been battling with regulators ever since to secure approval. A green light was issued by the FCC in summer 2019 after T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to spin off key assets to a new would-be wireless provider, Dish Network, but regional hurdles remain. At the end of 2019, T-Mobile USA had just over 86.0m customers. The vast majority are served by the main brand; MetroPCS - now Metro by T-Mobile - still operates as a secondary prepaid brand. Revenues were $45.0bn with net income of $3.5bn. CEO Legere has announced plans to depart the group in early 2020, to be succeeded by deputy Mike Sievert.
Capsule checked 9th December 2019
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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Feb 2020: Finally, a green light. Two years after they agreed an outline deal, T-Mobile USA and Sprint got court approval to merge. District Judge Victor Marrero threw out the remaining objections submitted by a group of US states who argued that the merger would be anti-competitive, despite the fact it had already been passed by the Justice Department and the FTC. A few other obstacles remain, but it looks at last as if this combination of the current #3 and #4 US wireless carriers will actually take place.
Adbrands Daily Update 18th Nov 2019: John Legere, the high-profile and outspoken CEO of T-Mobile USA, announced plans to depart the company in April next year, despite its forthcoming merger with rival carrier Sprint. His loss will be a blow to the enlarged business, but he will be succeeded by longtime lieutenant Mike Sievert. "I hired Mike in 2012 and I have great confidence in him," said Legere. "I have mentored him as he took on increasingly broad responsibilities, and he is absolutely the right choice as T-Mobile's next CEO. Mike is well prepared to lead T-Mobile into the future. He has a deep understanding of where T-Mobile has been and where it needs to go to remain the most innovative company in the industry." There had been rumours that Legere was in talks to take over as CEO of office sharing company WeWork; however Legere reportedly ended those discussions because of a potential conflict of interest: Japanese group Softbank is the controlling shareholder in both Sprint and WeWork.
Adbrands Daily Update 29th Oct 2019: Talks with local regulators in different states to resolve opposition to its merger with Sprint drag on, but in all other respects T-Mobile USA is thriving. In 3Q it added more postpaid wireless subscribers than both its two biggest rivals combined. Postpaid are generally considered to be mobile companies' most valuable customers. Net adds were 754,000 subscribers, compared to 444,000 at Verizon and a lacklustre 101,000 at AT&T. Total customers at T-Mobile at the end of Sept were 84.2m, though prepaid still represented a significant proportion. Total postpaids were 45.7m. AT&T had 162.3m, including 75.2m postpaids. However its results were overshadowed by a worrying decline in pay-TV and broadband customers. Verizon had 93.8m mobile customers, and remains the postpaid champion with 89.1m contract subscribers. Sprint has yet to report 3Q figures, but at the end of 2Q had 54.6m total customers of whom 32.2m were postpaid. If the T-Mobile/Sprint goes through without further significant losses in postpaid customers, the combined total of around 77.9m monthly subscribers would put that business ahead of AT&T.
Adbrands Daily Update 29th Jul 2019: It was a long, long time coming, but US federal regulators finally approved the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile USA. Talks between the two have been ongoing for at least five years. The crucial development this time was a deal to offload certain key assets into satellite TV provider Dish Network. That deal effectively sets up Dish as a new 4th mobile provider to replace the one being eliminated through merger. It will pay $1.4bn to acquire Sprint's Boost and Virgin Mobile prepaid services, with a combined total of around 9m customers, and will have access to the combined T-Mobile/Sprint wireless and retail network for at least seven years, while it builds its own 5G network. It will pay another $3.6bn in 2022 to buy additional spectrum from Sprint. Meanwhile, T-Mobile and Sprint will combine their other resources, creating a network of around 90m customers, closing the gap with AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile has promised not to raise its prices for three years and to roll-out a national 5G service by 2022. Despite federal approval, though, the separate lawsuit brought by 10 state attorneys-general is still ongoing, so the merger is not yet fully cleared.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Jun 2019: A group of attorneys general from 10 US states threw a new spanner into the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile USA, filing lawsuits opposing the deal. The suit is being led by New York and California with the stated goal "to stop the merger in its tracks". They argue that the combination of the 3rd and 4th largest mobile suppliers will lead to increases in price plans for consumers. This is "exactly the sort of consumer-harming, job-killing megamerger our antitrust laws were designed to prevent," said NY AG Letitia James.
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