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T-Mobile continues to rake in new smartphone and fixed wireless customers. But company officials suggested the operator may take steps to raise prices in the same way its rivals have done.
January 25, 2024
T-Mobile said it added 934,000 net postpaid phone customers in the fourth quarter, alongside 541,000 fixed wireless access (FWA) customers. Both of those figures are above what analysts had expected and exceeded what AT&T and Verizon reported for the quarter.
But T-Mobile hinted that it may follow its rivals in potentially raising prices on some of its service plans.
"We're in an era of unprecedented value," T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said during his company's quarterly conference call. "Customers [with smartphones] are getting three times more data than just five years ago" alongside faster speeds.
As a result, he said T-Mobile will look for "optimizations" that make sense for the company and that customers will accept. "We'll find those opportunities," he said.
Already, T-Mobile is testing the waters for price increases. Company officials confirmed reports that T-Mobile increased the price of its FWA service by $10 to $60 per month – though they noted that the earlier price was a "promotional" price and the new one is "standard" pricing.
But Sievert added that T-Mobile has "no intentions of sacrificing our brand position." He said the operator is viewed as providing the best value in the industry, and would work to retain that perception.
Ongoing FWA momentum
T-Mobile reported a total of almost 5 million FWA customers at the end of 2023. And the company said it remains on track to increase that to between 7 million and 8 million by the end of 2025.
And what of expanding beyond that figure in the future? "Stay tuned," Sievert said.
The success of FWA from T-Mobile and others continues to impact other companies in the space. For example, Comcast this week reported losing 34,000 broadband customers in the fourth quarter.
"While we do not expect subscriber trends to improve in the coming quarters, we do expect them to improve over time," said Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, during the company's quarterly conference call.
"T-Mobile's growth had been more resilient than expected," wrote the financial analysts at New Street Research.
However, T-Mobile continues to refine its FWA business. As PCMag reported, the company recently tweaked its terms of service to warn FWA customers that they might see slower speeds after they consume 1.2TB per month of data. A previous version of that caveat didn't offer a specific carveout for the operator's FWA service.
T-Mobile also confirmed to the publication that less than 10% of its FWA customers use more than 1.2TB in a month.
Odds and ends
During the company's quarterly call, T-Mobile officials offered insights into a handful of issues hanging over the company.
For example, CEO Sievert said that T-Mobile has been testing direct-to-cell services from SpaceX following the launch of that company's latest satellites. Sievert also said T-Mobile hopes to offer commercial, space-based text messaging services sometime this year.
AT&T, too, is chasing that market. The operator recently invested in AST SpaceMobile, which is hoping to launch its own constellation of direct-to-cell satellites.
T-Mobile officials were also questioned about the operator's pending purchase of MVNO Mint Mobile. Company officials said they expect the deal to close sometime in the first quarter of 2024. That represents a delay from the company's original plan to close the deal by the end of 2023.
In October, the FCC fired off a battery of questions at T-Mobile regarding the company's proposed purchase of Mint Mobile.
Finally, Sievert responded to a question about T-Mobile's appetite for investments and M&A. He said the company remains open to those kinds of transactions – but said "there's no big deal on the horizon."
Those comments are noteworthy, considering that UScellular is for sale.
Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading
Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.
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