T-Mobile CEO: Dish ‘already a factor’ in competition

With Dish Network nearing its 5G network launch, ‘tis the season for Wall Street analysts to ask wireless industry executives to size up the competitive landscape as they enter 2022.  

For T-Mobile President and CEO Mike Sievert, Dish is already a factor. “They have a fantastic MVNO arrangement and they say that the one they struck with my competitor is even better,” he said during the UBS conference on Monday. “So this enables them. They’re a factor now with millions of customers and we’re told at some point, they’ll start releasing their own network and we take them at face value on that. We’ve always assumed that in our forecast.”

There was no mention of Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen earlier this year calling Sievert a magenta Grinch, or accusations about anti-competitive moves on the part of T-Mobile with the CDMA network shutdown, which ended up being postponed by a few months. T-Mobile characterized Dish as a trouble-maker for not upgrading its customers’ handsets; Dish struck a new MVNO deal with AT&T while continuing the one with T-Mobile.

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But again, the topic was competition, and when it comes to competition from cable, that’s been consistent, Sievert said.

“There’s been no real change in the cable competitiveness. I’ve said before, we didn’t actually anticipate that they would be able to come and grab this level of SOGA [share per gross adds]. It’s about 10% and it has been about 10% every single quarter for the last two years,” he said. “So it’s just a consistent performance you see from them. I guess, last quarter, it was down a little, 9% or something. But generally flat, has been for a long time, and that run rate is fully embedded in our forecast and anticipated by us.”

Network that ‘rips’

T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G network, which uses the 2.5 GHz spectrum, now reaches 80% of its postpaid customers, he said. And not to “disparage anybody,” but when relying on dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), as his rivals Verizon and AT&T do, “even your broadly available 5G is roughly the same speed as LTE.”

T-Mobile, on the other hand, “is twice as fast because it’s dedicated spectrum on dedicated 5G standalone core. We’re the only ones doing that on extended range, low-band,” he said. “And then we have 80% of our customers covered by a network that rips at 300 megabits, 400 megabits per second and allows you to do the kinds of things that Magenta MAX customers are enjoying. That is so awesome.”

About 30% of T-Mobile’s customer have 5G handsets, he said. Those who are on the Magenta MAX plan are using 35 gigs a month, and they’re doing eight times more gaming than people on LTE, and many more times of video consumption, according to Sievert.

Of course, T-Mobile is still integrating Sprint customers into the mix, and the billing piece of that – which is always the last piece – is expected to be done by the middle of 2023, he said.

Using mobile network for fixed

In the fixed wireless access (FWA) arena, T-Mobile has surpassed its 2021 year-end goal of 500,000 customers. The company introduced the service in March as an alternative to cable, and it’s finding interest not only from people who have no other broadband option, he said.

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“A lot of our customers on home broadband are coming in suburban and even urban areas from cable, which is fascinating,” he said. “It’s not all just greenfield stuff where nobody has ever had an option before. It’s both… So we see our way to 7 million, to 8 million, which is only single-digit penetration, and that will be a multi-billion dollar highly accretive business for us when we get there.”