John Legere has become one of the most prominent figures in the wireless industry since taking over at T-Mobile around 16 months ago. Thanks to his style, demeanor and business approach, he – and T-Mobile with him – has become unavoidable. Whether or not its just a public persona for the sole purpose of personifying T-Mobile’s new-found Maverick brand will be argued for a while yet.
In an interview with NPR a couple of days ago, he shares the same-old responses regarding the wireless industry and T-Mobile’s position in it. The same answers we’ve heard before. As long as T-Mobile changes the industry for the good, Legere doesn’t mind if his company’s number 1 or number 4, because they’ll be successful anyway and they’ll have achieved what they wanted to. “We are either going to take over this whole industry, or these (bleep) are going to change.”
The part of the transcript/interview I found most interesting was his slightly different approach on the question of a Softbank purchase and the seemingly inevitable merger with Sprint afterwards. Questioned on whether or not T-Mobile’s Maverick methods would continue after a merger if it took place, John Legere answered:
“Great question. No, great question. You know, just asked – the question you’re just asking. What’s important for the U.S. industry is the change that the maverick is creating. That’s T-Mobile.”
He also argued that allowing Sprint and T-Mobile to merge would “make the maverick stronger”. It’s worth noting at this time that Legere was running Global Crossing before he joined T-Mobile in September 2012. Once of that company’s owners was Masayoshi Son, current owner of Softbank, the carrier that’s purportedly has an interest in buying Deutsche Telekom’s 67% controlling stake in T-Mobile US. Steve Henn of NPR states that “while Legere is impressing 20-somethings with his taste in rap and his tweets and trying to convince regulators that a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile wouldn’t actually hurt consumers, he also seems to be auditioning for a new job from his old boss, running a combined Sprint and T-Mobile.”
“I just know that what I’ve got – myself, my leadership team, my company, my brand, the growth – is one of the biggest missing things in the industry. So if I was Masayoshi Son and I was interested in T-Mobile, I would say, you know, I got to – I like what they do.”
Since the rumors of a Sprint/T-Mobile merger aren’t going away, it’s worth considering the implications. If Softbank wants to own T-Mobile it’s because of the movements its made in the past year. Uncarrier has been a massive success. Adding 4.4 million net subscribers is an achievement not met by anyone else except Verizon. And one could argue that Uncarrier and John Legere are inseparable. They coexist. Whether it’s an act to promote Uncarrier, or whether Uncarrier is just a business idea that has its roots in the very core of Legere’s personality is unimportant. Without Uncarrier, no-one will make a dent in the “Big Two” carriers’ control of the market. That would remain true if T-Mobile stayed as it was, or if it merged with Sprint.
If anyone should be worried by the bid, it’s Sprint fans. Of the two brands at the moment, T-Mobile has the momentum, it has the “cool factor”, it’s adding the same number of subscribers each quarter as Verizon, it has the most competitive plans and its LTE coverage is expanding at break-neck pace. Sprint is doing the exact opposite. But it has spectrum, and more customers than T-Mobile. Combined, they could mount a serious challenge under a single brand.
In short: If T-Mobile joins Sprint, or if it doesn’t, it has to keep doing what it’s doing. Building on its success in 2013, and keeping the same focus and direction.
I’ve embedded the interview below (in Flash). Otherwise, head on over to NPR.org to read the entire transcript.