T-Mobile’s COO shows little worry over ‘fat monopolists’ entry into wireless

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert. Credit: T-Mobile

A top executive from T-Mobile said the carrier will likely benefit from Comcast and other cable operators getting into the wireless business. And he showed little concern for the possibility of increased competition in the wireless space.

When questioned about Comcast’s announcement this week that it plans to launch wireless service next year, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert answered: “Are you asking if we’re sitting here concerned that these fat monopolists are going to roll right into wireless and school us all on how it’s done?”

“Nothing that was said this week was new,” Sievert said during his appearance at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference this morning. “Things in cable happen at the pace of cable. So we’ve been talking about this for two years. And I guess they said sometime next year … they’ll enter. We think it’s great. We really think it’s great. If you’re a T-Mobile shareholder, it’s hard to see how this would go badly for you.”

Specifically, Comcast said it plans to leverage its MVNO agreement with Verizon coupled with its public Wi-Fi hotspots to offer wireless service in its cable footprint sometime in the middle of 2017.

In his comments, Sievert argued that T-Mobile stands to benefit in a number of different scenarios.

“Let’s say they do roll right in here and school us all and start taking our customers. There’s [now] not four but six big, viable, facilities-based carriers in a rapidly converging world,” Sievert said. “A world where T-Mobile is highly effective at doing one part of that: wireless. The part where the puck is going. So that’s probably a really great place to be if you’re a T-Mobile shareholder.”

Added Sievert: “On the other hand they might roll in here and find it’s harder than they thought. They might find that relying on a several-year-old deal with Verizon – who is notoriously a tough negotiator, and did that [MVNO] deal back when you sold data by the megabyte, not the gigabyte, a time when data was one tenth its current payload – relying on that deal to compete might not be a formula for success.”

“Or they might just get in and lose interest and pick up their toys and go home,” he added.

Concluded Sievert: “It’s hard to figure out how a T-Mobile shareholder struggles through this. … It’s very healthy for the industry.”

Sievert’s comments are particularly noteworthy in light of a Wall Street Journal article this week that pointed to T-Mobile as an “obvious” choice as an acquisition target for Comcast, as Comcast works to launch its wireless offering.

Of course, Comcast isn’t the only cable company eyeing wireless. Charter Communications’ CEO yesterday said the company has asked Verizon to activate the MVNO agreement it inherited when it closed its purchase of Time Warner Cable earlier this year. 

“We’ve told Verizon we’re interested in the MVNO agreement — we’ve asked to activate it. We’d like to pursue that relationship,” said Charter chief executive Tom Rutledge, speaking Wednesday at Goldman Sachs’ 25th Annual Communacopia Conference.

For more:
- see this T-Mobile webcast

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Comcast to launch wireless service by the middle of 2017
Charter’s CEO: We haven’t activated MVNO deal with Verizon… yet