T-Mobile's TV service delay tied to company's 5G rollout

Layer3 TV in T-Mobile store (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)
Layer3 TV in T-Mobile store (Mike Dano/FierceWireless)

T-Mobile’s pay TV service is taking a bit longer than originally anticipated, but the company said that’s partly because it’s intrinsically tied to efforts to bring 5G wireless broadband into the home.

During a Citi investor conference, Mike Sievert, chief operating officer for T-Mobile, said broadband and TV service go “hand in hand.”

“We see a big opportunity in broadband and that’s one of the reasons why we’re also interested in video,” Sievert said.

Sievert said that T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G will be available as soon as 2020, but he admitted that the “massive capacity gains” T-Mobile is anticipating out of its merger with Sprint will take a couple of years to unlock.

That new combined company intends to market home broadband in 52% of U.S. zip codes, according to Sievert. Those markets, he said, will be places where T-Mobile’s 5G network creates more capacity than can be consumed by mobile users.

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“Our home broadband strategy is to sell excess capacity fully funded by the mobile strategy. It’s almost the exact opposite of AT&T and Verizon,” Sievert said, adding that because T-Mobile’s in-home broadband network won’t be overly burdened by capital expenditures, it will be “highly disruptive” from a pricing standpoint.

There’s still work to do from a 5G in-home broadband perspective for T-Mobile, and the company said it’s taking its time with the video offering. But video will come before 5G in-home broadband, Sievert said, and T-Mobile still sees an opportunity in pay TV service even when another company is the internet service provider.

Besides TV and broadband service in the home, T-Mobile also sees opportunity in mobile television. Sievert said the company won’t create another skinny bundle like services such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now, but he did say T-Mobile sees an opportunity to partner in the mobile video space.

“We do think there’s an opportunity in the space to be a place where customers can turn to access all the content and to access it in a way that has incredible search and discovery, payment and a real connectivity between your mobile life and your home life in a way that we haven’t seen before,” Sievert said.

After T-Mobile closed its acquisition of Layer3 TV last January, the company said its new pay TV service taking on incumbent cable providers such as Comcast and Charter Communications would launch in 2018. But the company has since postponed the launch.