T-Mobile: Google Fi Will Bring Profits, New Ideas

While the big two US wireless operators may be dismissive of Google Fi's competitive threat, partner T-Mobile sees the MVNO as an exciting harbinger of things to come.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s CFOs both recently shrugged off the threat of competition from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s new wireless mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), Fi, which will offer low-cost, WiFi-plus-cellular mobile service to US consumers. (See AT&T CFO Shrugs Off Google Fi as Limited and Verizon Ready for Google MVNO Challenge.)

As its network partner, along with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile US Inc. , on the other hand, obviously sees the partnership as strategic, but the carrier's executives think allowing Google to wholesale its network will bring more than just profits for it. (See Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here.)

"It allows more customers on to our network on terms that are favorable to T-Mobile," T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert said on the carrier's earnings call. "More importantly, we get to collaborate deeply with some really strong thinkers."

Sievert said that T-Mobile would make money on the relationship and be able to offer anything that proves popular on Fi to its own customers. Conversely, CTO Neville Ray stressed that T-Mobile has a lot to offer Google as well with its WiFi calling and handoff between WiFi and voice-over-LTE (VoLTE). (See T-Mobile Beats Sprint on Subs, Eyes Verizon on Network, Sprint, T-Mobile Test Ruckus's Refined VoWiFi and T-Mobile Turns Up VoLTE-to-WiFi Handoff.)

"There's R&D and capabilities they are looking to leverage from us as much as the other way, which is great to see," Ray said, adding that it will take time and "other folks" (a.k.a. Sprint) to launch VoLTE for Google to add VoLTE-to-WiFi handover to Fi. (See Sprint Plans to Meld TDD, FDD LTE Spectrum.)

Want to know more about mobile topics like VoLTE and WiFi calling? They will be some of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!

T-Mobile CEO John Legere went further to note that Google Fi is starting to change the thinking about the future of the industry. "It's clear that content, social media and entertainment are all moving to the Internet, and the Internet is moving to mobile," he said. As such, more tangential players like Google will come to market, altering the landscape. When asked about consolidation amongst the wireless operators here, something Legere has always said was a matter of when and how, not if, the CEO added that it's now also a matter of whom.

"As we think ahead, I still reiterate that in five years, we'll think it comical that we thought of the industry structure as the four major wireless carriers," Legere said. He also added cable companies to the mix of content, entertainment and social companies that are all "in the same game we’re in." He expects more new entrants and more consolidation, but of a much broader set of industry players than just the big four US wireless operators. (See T-Mobile: Google & Dish Could Be 'Interesting' Partners.)

"Think of cable and other players not as competitors, but as potential partners for the future," Legere said.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

sarahthomas1011 4/29/2015 | 10:31:07 AM
Re: Years from now He didn't reference any other companies, but sort of lumped social media in there as well, maybe in reference to Facebook. 

You see Amazon, Microsoft and others competing in cellular service? How would that look?
nasimson 4/29/2015 | 10:25:49 AM
myopia In a few years from now statements from AT&T and Verizon will be often quoted as myopic visions from ex-industry leaders. Just like Bill Gates' statement of 64k memory being enough.
Mitch Wagner 4/28/2015 | 3:59:48 PM
Years from now "As we think ahead, I still reiterate that in five years, we'll think it comical that we thought of the industry structure as the four major wireless carriers."

Who else does he see getting involved?Google, the cable companies -- has he talked about anyone else?

It seems to me that the hypercloud providers -- Google, Facebok, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple if it can get its cloud act together -- will emerge as strong competitors to existing carriers, and incumbents like even Verizon and AT&T will have trouble competing. 
thebulk 4/28/2015 | 3:03:22 PM
Re: competition or partnering? It's nice to see a mobile provider thinking outside the box a bit and working with Google on the carrier side. I like the WiFi handoff idea, I recall something similar being offered in the past, I think from AT&T but it didnt work out so well. 
sarahthomas1011 4/28/2015 | 1:48:48 PM
competition or partnering? I can see why T-Mobile is excited about the partnership with Google. Not only will it bring in new revenue for it, but they can also count Google's customers as their own, even if they are less valuable wholesale customers.

I'm not really seeing what services Google might introduce that it would adopt and offer itself, however. What's more likely, I think, is that T-Mobile will respond to Google's offers -- ie. Fi offers cheap international data, T-Mobile will match it. So, that's more a result of the competition than the partnership.

What do you think could arise from the partnership and R&D there, if anything?
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