UPDATED: T-Mobile takes its fiber effort to new markets in Florida, Minnesota

T-Mobile has been testing the waters in the fiber market since August 2021, and apparently things are going well enough that it is continuing to expand into new markets. Wave7 Research’s Jeff Moore told Fierce Telecom that over the past month the operator made its service available in two new areas in Florida and Minnesota.

Newly covered markets include Pinellas County in the former and the St. Cloud metro region in the latter.

Moore, who spotted the changes to T-Mobile's coverage list, told Fierce Wave7 was planning to put out a report Friday night highlighting what information it was able to gather about the new rollouts.

“Without question, T-Mobile is expanding its fiber broadband efforts,” Moore told Fierce. “That said, these are modest efforts to better understand fiber broadband, not a broad effort to sell fiber broadband. CEO Mike Sievert recently described this effort as ‘capital-light,’ and I think that is the right context.”

The rollouts come shortly after Bloomberg reported in September that T-Mobile was exploring a deal to become the anchor tenant on a network being built by fiber infrastructure company Tillman FiberCo.

In August, Tillman secured half a billion dollars in funding to build open access fiber in five states, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

UPDATED 10/31/2023 1 pm ET: A T-Mobile representative told Fierce the following: "We’re working with Tillman FiberCo in Pinellas County, FL and Intrepid Fiber Networks in St. Cloud, MN. A reliable internet connection is crucial for just about everyone, so we’re building on our mission to provide more broadband options to millions of consumers across the country. While our fixed wireless service is – and will continue to be – our specialty high-speed internet offering, T-Mobile Fiber is something we’re exploring in select markets to help bring additional, much-needed connectivity to more people."

The operator previously teamed with Pilot Fiber in New York and Intrepid Fiber Networks to cover two markets in Colorado.

T-Mobile now offers fiber service in seven markets: New York, NY; Pueblo and Northglenn, CO; Kenosha, WI; Bloomington and St. Cloud, MN; and Pinellas County, FL. According to its website, it offers symmetrical speed tiers providing between 500 Mbps and 2 Gbps. All of its plans include a Wi-Fi 6 router. There are no installation, equipment or cancelation fees.

It is not clear how many total passings T-Mobile now serves with fiber or whether T-Mobile counts its fiber subscribers as part of the broadband figures it releases every quarter.

CEO comments

Speaking on the operator’s earnings call earlier this week, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said it continues to experiment in the fiber space and broadband market more broadly and hasn’t changed its philosophy that investments or partnerships in the space should be “capital-light, generally off-balance sheet, etc.”

“We're interested in fiber. Fiber is a technology for the decades, and that's not lost on us,” Sievert said. “We know that fiber will serve households and businesses a long time from now. And we also are rapidly, I think, gaining confidence that our brand and our team belong in the broadband space.”

He continued “That being said, we don't have an interest right now in changing the basic capital structure of this company nor the philosophy of it nor the centricity we have around wireless.”

He did explicitly state that T-Mobile is not the mystery partner who invested alongside Jana Partners in fiber player Frontier Communications. But he acknowledged that T-Mobile has ambitions beyond the scattershot deployments it’s doing now.

“They won't all be as small probably as the small pilots we're doing now,” he said of its fiber deployments. “We may get after it a little more significantly because our confidence is building in the space.”