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.)
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, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading