& cplSiteName &

T-Mobile Not Stealing Customers… Yet

Sarah Thomas
4/3/2014
50%
50%

Are T-Mobile's "uncarrier" ways helping it steal customers from its competitors? If you follow the boisterous claims of its CEO, you'd think US consumers are chomping at the bit to tear up their contracts and join the magenta movement. But the numbers suggest that's not the case, or at least not yet.

According to the latest consensus estimates for wireless subscriber growth, which T-Mobile US Inc. provided to industry financial analyst Craig Moffett as part of its quarterly survey of sell-side estimates, the industry as a whole gained 800,000 postpaid customers in the past three months.

So where are these nearly one million customers coming from? For now, some could be from the smaller operators, upgrading to a smartphone and a tier-one provider for the first time. Others are likely tablet subscriptions or other non-mobile postpaid users. But, increasingly, these customers have to be coming from other big carriers, which means additions can't stay that high for long.

In fact, I'm surprised they have so far. The level of promotions in the wireless industry has to be at an all-time high. In the past week alone, Verizon Wireless dropped prices on its More Everything plans to match AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s offer of four lines and 10GB of data for $40 per line per month, and today it's offering up 1GB of free data to tablet customers on the plan. (See AT&T Joins Verizon in the Shared Data Pool.)

When you add in Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s Framily plans, and T-Mobile's device financing, lower international rates, free tablet data, early termination fee offer, and the other three's responses to nearly all these moves, it's hard not to foresee a lot of customer grabbing going on. (See T-Mobile to Pick Up 'Evil' Family Fees, Sprint Launches No-Sharing 'Framily' Plans, AT&T Lures T-Mobile Subs With $450 Promise, Look Inside T-Mobile's 'Uncarrier' Transformation, T-Mobile Kills Contracts, Launches LTE Network, and T-Mobile Zeros In on Tablets.)

That said, it hasn't yet erupted into an all-out price war. While the operators have tweaked their offers and repackaged how they price, the actual prices haven't come plummeting down. Their earnings haven't been affected yet either. But going forward, they will likely come at the expense of subscriber growth, if not revenues. (See Verizon's 4G Strength Keeps It Above the Fray.)

Moffett says that consensus expectations for 2014 post-paid net adds have fallen at Verizon from 3.53 million nine months ago to less than 3 million today, and from 1.4 million six months ago at AT&T to 1.2 million today. For Sprint, postpaid subscriber losses in 2014 have more than doubled over the past three months to 617,000. T-Mobile, meanwhile, continues to grow -- from 1.3 million three months ago up to 2.9 million additions expected today. Incredibly, a year ago, T-Mobile's estimates were only for 50,000 postpaid subscriber additions this year. (See T-Mobile Leads, Sprint Suffers in Pricing Wars.)

That growth has to come from somewhere. But as Moffett points out, the estimates have to be off base. He writes, "At Verizon, consensus estimates for churn has ticked up by 2 bps [basis points] over the past three months, AT&T’s has increased 3 bps, Sprint’s, 8 bps, and T-Mobile’s fell by 4 bps. Street estimates, in other words, seem to imply that the TMUS’s subscriber gains are largely coming out of thin air, and that the big four’s recent promotion wars have really only resulted in, well, more customers for everyone."

At some point, that can't last, and it might just take an all-out price war to tip the scales. T-Mobile has made moves in that direction, and Sprint's new boss, SoftBank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son, has promised one if he's able to acquire the Uncarrier. So far, there's more of price squabble in the US, but as T-Mobile's consensus estimates prove, a lot can change in a very short amount of time.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(29)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/3/2014 | 3:04:53 PM
Uncarrier moves
Going back through to add all those links on past T-Mobile moves reminded me just how much it has done in such a short period of time. A lot of its pricing changes were more about changing the structure and promotions, but there were also some significant price drops in there. It'll be interesting to see how the market continues to evolve in pricing and plans going forward. 
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/3/2014 | 3:07:24 PM
Next pricing trend?
Any thoughts on what the next big pricing shake up or trend will be? My money is on more toll-free/sponsored data-type partnerships.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/3/2014 | 3:28:16 PM
More fun with numbers
If churn is up at competitors but down at T-Mobile, doesn't that suggest that there's more than thin air at play? Also, the fact that competitors have lowered expectations for net adds while T-Mobile is increasing its net adds also indicates something positive is happening.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/3/2014 | 3:31:08 PM
Re: More fun with numbers
True, it's just not happening as much as you might expect yet. Adding 800,000 in total is still pretty good for the industry. It'd be lower if they were just trading customers.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/3/2014 | 3:40:28 PM
Re: More fun with numbers
The subscriber war of attrition is a less violent but equally pointless analog to trench warfare in World War I. Gain two points, lose three. Gain two back, lose one. Etc.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/3/2014 | 3:43:19 PM
Re: More fun with numbers
That could change with a real price war of the likes Son is promising. "Let's fight back! Let's fight back!"
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/3/2014 | 3:47:43 PM
Re: More fun with numbers
Winning customers through unsustainable pricing rarely works as a long-term strategy. So the question is whether there's enough real margin in current prices to sweat things down. I will guess that any too-good-to-be-true price plan will be exactly that -- a lowball bait price that will require a good portion of hidden extras.
TaraSeals
50%
50%
TaraSeals,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/3/2014 | 4:51:56 PM
Re: More fun with numbers
I agree, Mendyk, and I also think that unlike long-distance or home phone service, wireless from an infrastructure perspective of course has a completely different cost structure, so the race to zero specter really isn't feasible. That said, my prediction is that going forward voice will always be the loss leader...while video and plans oriented around accessing video (to your point about app-oriented plans, Sarah) will become more and more attractive.

I think T-Mobile's genius  is in its positioning as being above the AT&T-Verizon fray; it's a little younger, a little hipper...and definitely has more whimsy than Sprint (and incidentally, that Framily campaign bothers me to no end--next thing you know it will introduce a multilevel marketing element).
Phil_Britt
50%
50%
Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/3/2014 | 6:50:27 PM
Re: More fun with numbers
Agreed, Mendyk. 

 

The price wars of the airline industry were unsustainable, but the airlines though that was the best way to lure customers. They had plenty of customers, but also plenty of red ink. Now the airlines are making a lot of money -- at the customers' expense and inconvenience.

Airlines, telecom carriers and other businesses can only go so far with price wars. And cheaper (price) service usually means cheaper (quality) service.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/3/2014 | 7:23:50 PM
Re: More fun with numbers
We also should remember that Mr. Son lost a boatload of money in the first dot-com bubble. Fortunately for him, he had three boatloads, so no big worries. But his business decisions are not infallible.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
More Blogs from Que Sera Sarah
WiC congratulates the winners of our inaugural Leading Lights awards: Cisco's Yvette Kanouff, Zayo Group's Sandi Mays and startup Grid4C.
Leaders from Mellanox, Arista Networks, Syniverse, ECI Telecom and Cisco round out WiC's inaugural female tech pioneers of the year.
Women from AT&T, Ciena, Ixia, Zayo Group and Fujitsu make our shortlist for working to advance the cause of women in the next-gen comms industry.
Join WiC and Flex's Caroline Dowling for a live radio show on Tuesday at 12PM ET on how technology is powering the fourth revolution and to what effect in the future.
New companies with a focus on video graphics, smart grid predictive analytics and a quadcopter camera make up WiC's finalists for Female-Led Startup to Watch.
From The Founder
The more things change, the more they stay the same for Juniper's next-gen comms solutions, and that's a good thing.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Pre5G & 5G Solutions

6|30|16   |   02:23   |   (0) comments


At 5G World London, ZTE demonstrated two types of equipment, including 128 antenna Pre5G Massive MIMO and 15GHz high-frequency base stations.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Technology Innovation to Fuel Power Efficiency

6|30|16   |   07:21   |   (0) comments


Managing energy costs and consumption as cable operators deploy new services requires new levels of innovation from technology partners. In this video, Dave Fellows, co-founder and CTO of Layer3 TV and chief scientist of the SCTE/ISBE Energy 2020 program, discusses such ambitious objectives as achieving a second 500% increase in efficiency in outside plant ...
LRTV Custom TV
Transitioning to Service Agile Networks

6|30|16   |     |   (0) comments


Packet optical networks are transitioning from proprietary converged systems to open disaggregated platforms. This video will describe the Fujitsu 1FINITY disaggregated platform, explore how 1FINITY interoperates with the Fujitsu FLASHWAVE platform and explain how 1FINITY is designed for software control, like with Fujitsu Virtuora NC.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Nokia's Advancement Plan: Bring Old Skills to New Roles

6|29|16   |   7:57   |   (1) comment


Nokia's Sandy Motley advises women to change their mindsets; get aggressive about advancing their careers; develop strong, diverse support networks; and always bring forth learned skills to take on new challenges and different roles.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: Cisco's Yvette Kanouff

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Cisco's Yvette Kanouff for an exclusive in-depth interview.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast: Prepping Next-Gen Video Services

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this LRTV interview, Comcast's Elad Nafshi outlines where MSO stands with cloud DVR, OTT video, college and gigabit services.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Creating Unique Standards for Cable's Unique Networks

6|28|16   |   09:30   |   (0) comments


Cable's unique network requirements require a specific set of standards for operators to increase power efficiency, according to Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee, and Ian Oliver, managing director of the Trenchant Group and a member of the ...
LRTV Custom TV
Masergy: 'Now Is the Time for NFV'

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Hear Ray Watson, VP of Global Technology at Masergy, talk about the advantages that enterprises can leverage using Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and how Masergy takes a unique approach to solving customers' problems. For more information on Masergy, please visit www.masergy.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Masergy Leads the Charge With NFV Capabilities

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Hear Tim Naramore, CTO at Masergy, talk about how focusing on solving specific customer challenges, providing self-service automation tools and being laser focused on the customer experience has enabled Masergy to be a leader in the NFV space. For more information on Masergy, please visit www.masergy.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Private Company of the Year - Affirmed Networks

6|27|16   |     |   (0) comments


At BCE 2016, Steve Saunders speaks to Hassan Ahmed about Affirmed's success.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Growing Services, Not Consumption

6|24|16   |   07:18   |   (0) comments


Management of power requirements needs to be a key consideration as cable operators deploy new services, says Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee. In this video, Cooper discusses the importance of cable operators and technology partners ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei & TDC First to Launch DOCSIS 3.1 Trial in Europe

6|24|16   |     |   (0) comments


To meet the rising demands for high-speed broadband and to tackle fierce competition for 1.5 million household, TDC wanted to upgrade its network to use the latest technology. Using Huawei's DOCSIS 3.1 solution, TDC is now able to offer gigabit speeds to its customers.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 6-8, 2016,
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
'Brexit' Vote Hits BT, Vodafone
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/24/2016
Brexit: It's Hard to See an Upside
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 6/29/2016
Qualcomm Readies Lower-Band 5G Testbed
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/27/2016
Sigfox Said to Face Customer Backlash
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/27/2016
DT Eyes FTTH Solution to German Opex Issue
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/29/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Cisco's Yvette Kanouff for an exclusive in-depth interview.
At the BCE 2016 show in Austin, ECI Telecom CEO Darryl Edwards tells Light Reading founder and CEO about the Elastic Network concept and the company's NFV and cybersecurity developments.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.