T-Mobile chief, Jim Alling looks back on 2013 – “What a difference a year makes”

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With 2013 drawing to a close, it’s hard to look at the overall US network scene and not think, “this was T-Mobile’s year.” Going from a place a couple of years back where it was almost sold to AT&T and now, where AT&T is copying almost everything Tmo does (presumably because it’s threatened), has been a massive turnaround.

Jim Alling, T-Mobile’s COO spoke at an investor conference in New York today and commented on the stark contrast between the company now, and 12 months ago.

“What a difference a year makes,” he said. “This time last year, I don’t think anyone anticipated what was coming. The biggest story is our customer turnaround. We went from losing 2 million customers last year to gaining customers again.”

Unsurprisingly, the key to all this was the UNcarrier strategy. Listening to the customer and seeing that the carrier/smartphone system was broken, was the turning point. Being able to offer phones on EIP, without the necessity of having a 24-month contract meant buyers were more free to change phones when they felt like it, and were no longer forced to keep a phone for two years.

He also noted that none of that would have made any difference unless it had also invested in growing its coverage. After the failed bid from AT&T in 2011, Tmo got some spectrum from “Big Blue” which it used to launch its LTE network. Although there are many rural areas still missing out, there are a huge number of people in metro areas with access to Tmo’s 4G LTE, with 254 markets and 203 million people within range.

Moving on from here is going to be the next challenge. How does T-Mobile kick on and make sure that 2014 isn’t an anti-climax? For me, it’s all about coverage from here on in. It has great deals available on top handsets, customers can upgrade freely, they get unlimited data, those together form a great foundation. It now needs to boost its coverage, and to do that it needs to acquire more spectrum, and better quality spectrum (perhaps Verizon’s “for sale” A-block).

Alling and the company are aware of this, and it is determined and focussed on buying spectrum. Alling noted that Tmo is open to discussions with low-band spectrum holders. We’ll have our own thoughts on 2013 and the upcoming year published soon, but it’s good to hear that T-Mobile is keen on addressing the areas we all know need some attention.

Via: CNET

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  • FluX

    2013 was a great year.

    AT&T is still crap.

    • Flyincloud

      AT&T service isn’t crap. Oh yeah, I’m a T-mobile customer. They can speed up the upload and download, but voice quality sucks bad. I think people mainly use their phone to talk on.

      • fentonr

        I don’t. It really depends what demographic you’re dealing with, but my experience as a dealer was that most phone usage is texting and data.

        • Flyincloud

          Well, they are good at texting

        • Flyincloud

          If that the case, the data reliability and consistency suck as well.

      • Spanky

        T-Mobile can increase speeds all they want, but as long as they have spotty coverage in major metropolitan areas (I won’t even mention lack of coverage outside of major cities), then they need to concentrate on improving that first.

        • besweeet

          Going off of the coverage maps alone, it seems like they have as much coverage as one could want, except for maybe some of the N/NE states.

        • Spanky

          I wouldn’t put too much stock into coverage maps – not just T-Mobile’s, all carriers’. According to T-Mobile’s coverage map, my area has the best possible 4G coverage. If T-Mobile considers 0.5 Mbps downstream speeds best possible 4G coverage, then I guess they are right!

        • naum

          Coverage maps refer to signal strength, not bandwidth

        • Spanky

          That may be, but 0.5 Mbps is hardly 3G, let alone 4G.

        • naum

          What phone and plan are you using?

        • FluX

          I agree. I should be getting LTE; I think they added the L and the T to my location on accident.

      • TechHog

        Speak for yourself with that last sentence

  • Alex Zapata

    TMO definitely created quite a stir in the US mobile industry, but they can’t rest just yet.

    • Dakota

      The other carriers will copy them. Att said as much yesterday, but their prices will probably still be higher. I’m gonna try Att by switching the Straight Talk sim card from Tmobile

      • Danny Lewis

        AT&T has sort of copied them already, I can BYOD and not have to get on a contract with them.

      • Bud

        Try aio wireless way better than straight talk.

        • Bklynman

          What do you think of Pure Talk? Which do you think is better.

        • Bud

          Don’t know about pure talk. But my friend uses the aio wireless 7 gb plan and loves it.

    • Flyincloud

      Yeah cause quality and stability sucks

  • Willie D

    They should buy out Sprint’s 800Mhz spectrum. Not like they are using it or put any of it to use where they needed to..

    • gadget_hero

      Just FYI Sprint only has ~14 MHz of their 800 MHz (ESMR, aka former iDEN spectrum from Nextel). Sprint has already deployed CDMA x1 Advanced for voice on a ton of sites, and plan on running a deployment of the same spectrum, also know as Band 26, for LTE. Chicago already has sites with this LTE running, as this is part of their “Spark” network. The Nexus 5 supports all of these bands.

    • SouthernBlackNerd

      If Tmobile tried to call Sprint about buying their 800Mhz, Sprint would laugh hysterically. Sprint is not going to part with that Spectrum.

      They just shut down their Nextel Network in July. They are putting up sites right now. By the middle of next year, much of their network will be overlaid with 800Mhz voice and 800Mhz LTE along with 1900Mhz LTE.

  • gadget_hero

    If T-Mobile doesn’t end up with cutting a deal with Verizon for its unused A Block cellular 700 MHz spectrum they should at the very least petition the FCC to re band cellular in the 850 MHz block into smaller channels, as Verizon/AT&T won these bands in “special raffle” auctions and they have rather large channels.

  • Spanky

    T-Mobile has a real hard-on for AT&T. Every other carrier is also “copying everything” T-Mobile is doing, yet T-Mobile specifically singles out AT&T. Seems like the company is a bit sore about the failed buyout and is now trying to distance themselves from it.

    • fentonr

      I think that is one of the reasons they’re targeting AT&T. I think the other reason is Sprint isn’t much of a target. They need to be focused on the market leaders who treat their customer’s poorly, that is where they have the most potential to grow from rather than the carrier only slightly ahead of Tmo. That means that they need to either target AT&T or Verizon. Both over charger their customers and have poor practices. Verizon is perceived to have the best network out there, if T-Mobile went after them, Verizon would respond by pointing out T-Mobile’s flaws with their network and it would really backfire (as far as public opinion goes) as it would compare Verizon’s strength against T-Mobile’s weakness. AT&T can’t do that, so they’re the better target. Also, AT&T has a mostly compatible network, so T-Mobile can poach out of contract customers.

      • Spanky

        Your comment definitely makes sense, but I disagree with the statement that AT&T can’t do a strength vs. weakness comparison against T-Mobile. Their network is significantly superior to T-Mobile’s. I firmly believe that the only reason why T-Mobile charges lower rates is because they don’t have the same levels of coverage as Verizon or AT&T. If they had a comparable network, the monthly rates would go up very quickly.

        • fentonr

          I didn’t mean that the two have nearly the same coverage, just that Verizon really highlights their network and would rip T-Mobile apart if they targeted Verizon directly while AT&T would respond in other ways.

        • besweeet

          I don’t think that they would necessarily increase rates. If the networks were comparable, it seems to me that T-Mobile would then see a vast increase in subscribers who could then pay for all of the necessary network upgrades at the same monthly charges.

      • TechHog

        Also keep in mind that most new AT&T phones can work on T-Mobile in LTE and reformed HSPA+ areas, which makes switching with BYOD easier.

    • red5

      Targeting ATT is not any sort of grudge match, its a calculated move based on current market perceptions of the biggest carriers. On average customers perceive Verizon as the top carrier; ATT commonly goes after Verizon in its ads. If you compete with the number two carrier, who themselves are trying to garner a reputation of beating out Verizon you try to ride that marketing wave. That, and the cross compatibility of handsets makes ATT the prime target of TMUS.

    • guest

      You are wrong! ATT is the carrier that is GSM and tmo can handle their handsets hence going after them. NO point of going after Verizon and Sprint where most phones wont work on TMO even unlocked.

  • josephsinger

    One thing that the company could do to improve its image is to try and get the mojo back that they had with customer service. At one time T-Mobile had the best customer service in the industry. Now, well not so much.

    • guest

      the cost is 2 high to bring service back to the states. if they keep gaining customers and start seeing a profit than that will change.

      • josephsinger

        You do realize that this is a message board and not a text message? :)

        Is it not possible to train whoever does your customer care? Just because it’s sent to an out-ot-country call center doesn’t mean that you cannot expect a level of service from the outfit you contract to do your customer care.

  • Melissa Cardenas

    omg tmobile lte faster this morning 35 mbps dwn10 up over here in los angeles east la 323 area i got screen shot to prove it!! never before ever have i seen speeds this high just gotta find a way to post it on here! yeya couldnt be happier .

    • j0mama

      LA market was on 5mhz during launch. Most of the areas will be 10mhz by now. SO your sudden speed increase is from that upgrade. 20 mhz will at least double of what you see in 2014!

      • besweeet

        Not necessarily. Just because you go from 2×5 to 2×10 or 2×20 doesn’t automatically mean faster speeds. Its goal is to give more capacity, with a side benefit (not required) of faster speeds.

  • rfgenerator

    I’m a former T-Mobile customer who left this year after being a customer since 2005. My wife got sick of in the New England winter having to walk outside from her work to get coverage to make a phone call. We are with AT&T under contract until August 2015. I would love nothing more than in August 2015 to be able to go back to T-Mobile, but that decision is going to be driven by improvements (or lack thereof) in coverage.

    • Danny Lewis

      I am tempted to switch to AT&T too now that I can get their plan without a contract. Before taxes and fees, I could pay $120/mo for a 4GB bucket of data. I would rather stick with T-Mobile, but unless you dwell within the cities, you’re going to have a bad time. I’m rooting for you, T-Mo, but being a commuter in a rural state is sort of forcing me to switch to a greener coverage pasture.

      • KingofPing

        “but unless you dwell within the cities”

        Careful with the generalizations. I live in rural Minnesota and have better coverage on TMo than I ever did with VZW (VZW always had more “bars”, but constantly bad quality and frequent total loss of voice/data signal.)

        If you have a map handy, just so you know I’m not making it up, I drive from New Prague, MN to Lakeville, MN every day and to Plymouth and Eagan quite frequently as well. There is not a single area in those locations where I get less than HSPA+. I actually get LTE in New Prague and Elko/New market; both farm-town’s I would never have expected to see it given TMo’s (rather undeserved I believe) reputation for coverage.

        I do not get the data/voice drops between work and home that I consistently saw on VZW, and call quality is hugely improved…even if the device says I only have one bar. (I pay little to no attention to the “bars” now…quality, speed and connection appear to have little to do with them.)

      • Bklynman

        See my reply above.

    • Bklynman

      Before switching back to Att. I would check out Pure Talk,they use the dealth star towers. Much cheaper than Att.

  • KingCobra

    I agree a year has made all the difference. T-Mobile now gets almost of all of the major handsets, including the iPhone. They have an LTE network that goes head to head with Verizon/AT&T data speeds (in cities), and they have the best rate plans in the industry. Big turnaround from 2012.