The final quarter of 2019 was one which certainly did not let T-Mobile US down, as the team boasted an additional 1 million postpaid phone net additions, taking the customer base up to 86 million.

While the firm still lags behind the leading duo in the US, AT&T and Verizon, CEO John Legere will likely be exiting the office on a high. Seven years in charge, and the business is looking remarkably different from the dreary days of 2012.

“T-Mobile delivered another incredible fourth quarter with strong customer growth, despite a very competitive environment – and we did it while lighting up the country’s first nationwide 5G network and working to close our merger with Sprint,” said Legere.

“7 million net customers have chosen to join the Un-carrier movement in 2019, and they are choosing T-Mobile because we treat them right, we eliminate their pain points, and we are changing the rules of this industry for customers everywhere.”

For the moment, this is a preliminary view of the final quarter of 2019, and as such financial figures have not been included. The subscriber numbers might also vary, though these are likely to be very accurate.

For the final three months of 2019, T-Mobile US can account for 1.9 million net additions in total, 1 million of which are branded postpaid phone net additions. An additional 300,000 customers were brought in through sales of wearables or tablets, 77,000 net additions were added to the prepaid column, while another 472,000 wholesale connections were added to the T-Mobile US network.

Looking across the whole of 2019, T-Mobile US added 7 million customers to its ranks, taking the total up to 86 million subscriptions across all segments. For the year, the team is suggesting 3.1 million branded postpaid phone net additions and 339,000 branded prepaid net additions.

Of course, the objective of this business is to compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon.

T-Mobile US AT&T Verizon Sprint
Subscribers (total) 66,503 92,892 93,922 40,939
–       Postpaid 45,720 75,152 89,739 31,942
–       Prepaid 20,783 17,740 4,183 8,997
Net additions 1,747 10 112 385

*Subscriber numbers taken from most recent financial results

Looking at the number of consumer post- and pre-paid subscriptions of the major telcos in the US, AT&T and Verizon are clearly still the dominant force, but T-Mobile US is not that far behind. Then of course you have to add in the Sprint subscriptions (assuming the merger runs smoothly over the next few months), and it will almost certainly be on par.

These numbers do not tell the whole story of course. AT&T and Verizon have significant bets in both the broadband and content world, as well as a presence in IOT. The profits of the wholesale business units, which make notable contributions to both Sprint and T-Mobile US are also not included.

When you take out all the corporate rhetoric, exaggeration and misdirection, and simple look at the numbers there are two interesting takeaways. Firstly, John Legere has done a remarkable job to evolve T-Mobile US from a poor-mans telco which was an acquisition target of AT&T, to a connectivity behemoth which competes in the top table of the US digital rankings.

T-Mobile US is competitive today, but tomorrow presents a new market dynamic; 5G. While all of the telcos are pondering the implications of mmWave connectivity, T-Mobile US has a weapon its rivals cannot compete with; a monstrous hording of low-band 5G spectrum. It might not provide the high-speed of mmWave, but it does offer coverage. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the attractiveness of T-Mobile US’ 5G proposition in comparison to rivals.

The second point to consider is competition. With three telcos scaled towards 100 million subscribers once the T-Mobile US and Sprint merger is completed, the credibility that Dish can compete in this market as a fourth, comparable and legitimate option is severely undermined.


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