Podcast: Laurent Therivel, president and CEO, UScellular

Photo of man wearing blue jacket and white shirt.
Laurent Therivel (UScellular)

Welcome to season three of The Five Nine podcast. Laurent “LT” Therivel took up his post leading UScellular in July 2020, a turbulent time for the industry and the world. UScellular is not only the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S. but also the fifth-largest tower company, giving it a unique perspective and position in building and maintaining infrastructure across its footprint, as well as in building partnerships with nationwide players. Its focus on smaller communities and rural areas means it has made bridging the digital divide a key part of its mission. And LT believes firmly in the pivotal role that UScellular, and carriers like it, play in bringing affordable and reliable services to all.

In this all-encompassing interview, LT has a few key messages. Firstly, investment. The recent announcement that Cox will enter the market as an MVNO on T-Mobile’s network, in LT’s eyes, is good for competition but potentially challenging for future investment. With robust competition and lower costs, alongside funding opportunities at a federal level, the customer will inevitably benefit. However, this could mean less funding for infrastructure. As LT points out, UScellular has invested significantly in connecting rural communities, but this comes at a significant cost, and there are fewer people to connect in each location. However, LT remains optimistic about the tools available to continue to invest in connectivity for those in need, beyond wireless.

LT also describes the thus-far successful roll-out of fixed-wireless access (FWA) within its network footprint. UScellular has rolled out low-band FWA, offering a “good, but not great speed experience,” but with C-Band and 3.45 GHz spectrum acquired and being lit up, the speeds will increase dramatically. However, UScellular has seen incredible growth even with a basic offering, having doubled its customer base in 18 months.

LT also discusses UScellular's work with the FAA during the C-band deployment controversies last year. The importance of communication and collaborative work to find understanding and common ground were essential to resolve the issues that were encountered.

Finally, LT talks about the importance of a healthy relationship with tech and screens and the key role that carriers and tech companies play in building good habits around technology.

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