T-Mobile US continues march with another 891k postpaid phone subs

Every quarter the industry sits back and wonders how long the Uncarrier momentum will continue and every quarter the magenta army marches on. This quarter saw 891,000 net additions of postpaid phone subscribers.

This number might sound familiar, but that is because T-Mobile US decided to purposely leak the gains a couple of weeks ago, but now it is official as the company reports its quarterly earnings. This quarter saw service revenues up 7.1% to $7.8 billion, total revenues up 5.1% to $10.8 billion and net income of $2.7 billion.

Over the course of 2017, the numbers are equally as impressive. A 8.3% year-on-year increase to $30.2 billion over the 12 months for service revenues, while total revenues were up 8.3% to $40.6 billion and net income stood at $4.5 billion.

“Wow – what a way to cap off 2017! Record financial results across the board and over 5 million customers added for the fourth year in a row,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile. “We made incredible progress in 2017 building out our network and retail footprint to set ourselves up for future growth. Our business is clearly firing on all cylinders and our strong guidance for 2018 shows that we have no plans of letting up!”

Now onto the customer numbers. Over the course of the fourth quarter, the team saw 1.9 million total net additions and 891,000 branded postpaid phone net additions. Compared to the rest of the industry you can see why Legere is so happy with himself. Over the same three months, Verizon acquired 431,000, AT&T brought in 329,000 and Sprint 184,000. T-Mobile US signed up 5.7 million customers across 2017, bringing the total to 72.5 million at the end of the year.

The Uncarrier strategy has been squeezed as tightly as possible over the last 12 months, though the team are confident of this trend continuing as well. Forecasts put the number of net additions at 2-3 million over 2018, though it is also worth noting that T-Mobile estimates are usually conservative.

While quirky advertising campaigns and a charismatic boss will certainly get you noticed there also has to be some substance to the proposition. This is another area where T-Mobile doesn’t seem to disappoint either. A couple of weeks ago, Opensignal released its ‘State of Mobile Networks: USA’ report for January with T-Mobile almost taking a clean sweep of the awards for network performance.

It would appear the only thing which will be able to stop this momentum over the next couple of quarters will be the 5G rollout. T-Mobile US has been preaching constantly about its 600 MHz spectrum holdings and its ambitions to be the first nationwide 5G network. T-Mobile doesn’t have to be the first to the 5G nationwide podium to continue this momentum, but it does need to keep up the strong network performance.

A nationwide network is all well and good for advertising purposes, but customers will be happy with 5G where they are; Legere has to make sure his ambition to cover the entire of the US doesn’t come at the cost of solid performance in the places that matter; where the majority of his customers are. The T-Mobile 4G network does not cover every single customer as it stands, but the ones it does serve it serves well. That is the success of the T-Mobile charge over the last couple of years, hopefully this lesson will be carried into 5G and executives don’t simply focus on the holy grail of nationwide coverage.

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