Thursday, November 8, 2012

T-Mobile USA Q3 2012 Highlights - The Five Core Areas

The T-Mobile USA Q3 earnings release comes in two forms. One is folded in the parent, Deutsche Telekom's overall earnings.  The second is directly through the US unit.  Surprisingly, the expected Five Core Areas of Focus slide that had been a mainstay in the parent's earnings deck didn't make it.  

However, this was addressed in the US release.   There is no doubt that positive notes will be slotted in any PR/earnings release. Here's what the company had to say and my takeaways in relation to the Q3 earnings news:

Amazing 4G Services Highlights:

  • T-Mobile continues to advance its $4 billion 4G network modernization plan, which includes installing new advanced equipment that paves the way for the launch of Long Term Evolution (“LTE”) service in 2013.  <<This reinforces the obvious that T-Mobile is spending the necessary money to make it possible for AWS LTE. While the company is aggressive, a 2013 launch is still nebulous. Is it Q1, 1H, 2H? >>
  • Las Vegas and Kansas City were the first cities where T-Mobile customers benefited from the launch of HSPA+ on 1900 PCS spectrum, which delivers enhanced voice and data coverage, as well as faster speeds on unlocked devices such as the iPhone; just yesterday, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Houston also went live.  The Company expects to announce further network strengthening in many additional cities in the coming months.  <<Refarming the PCS spectrum to enable HSPA+ is the foundation for its BYOD (read iPhone switcher - as blatantly stated) strategy. It's tough to fully market speedy iPhone HSPA+ service when the national network isn't there.  When it gets there, the company will certainly make a big splash.>>  
  • In the third quarter of 2012, T-Mobile completed the transaction announced in June 2012 with Verizon Wireless for the purchase and exchange of AWS spectrum licenses in 218 markets across the U.S.  This transaction improved T-Mobile’s spectrum position in 15 of the top 25 markets nationwide. <<Getting more AWS spectrum allows the company to increase its capacity to continue its unlimited data proposition.  An unknown is whether the additional spectrum may be shifted to increase T-Mobile's long term LTE data throughput speed as a marketing differentiation.   With an LTE-Advanced capable network, that's certainly possible to achieve.>> 
  • T-Mobile continued to expand its compelling 4G smartphone portfolio, including adding more devices under the popular Samsung Galaxy lineup, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and announcing the upcoming availability of two Windows Phone 8 smartphones, including the exclusive Nokia Lumia 810. <<This is a necessary PR item - to continue to show that new and cool halo devices are coming into the portfolio.  In theory, these should be the halo devices being pushed in the Q4 holiday selling season.>>

Value Leader Highlights:
  • T-Mobile is a champion of “bring your own device (BYOD)” wireless, with affordable value plans that separate the cost of wireless service from the purchase of a new phone. << Value plans are important to court BYOD iPhone users as they get typically a $5 monthly break off 'Classic' subsidized handset plans.  Honestly, this BYOD plan has been around for many years. T-Mobile sees a plus in this since they don't have to subsidize handsets and get better margin from Value customers.  Of course financing new phones continues to be an option for Value plan users. To the customer, it's usually a wash but clearly there are bigger financial benefits for T-Mobile.>>  
  • In early September, T-Mobile launched a new Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan that is a key differentiator in the marketplace. <<These prepaid plans provide a compelling alternative to Boost, MetroPCS and Leap plans. With a better national brand, T-Mobile can exploit these plans to take back customers from those rivals.  With 365K branded prepaid net additions in Q3, these plans have to have had an impact in light of MetroPCS' and Leap's Q3 massive net subscriber losses.>>  
Trusted Brand Highlights:
  • As part of its brand re-launch program, the Company increased investment in advertising to highlight its fast and reliable nationwide 4G network and its blazing fast data speeds in the U.S. <<In the past analyst conferences, T-Mobile and Sprint have always talked about how much their marketing budgets are dwarfed by Verizon Wireless' and AT&T's spend.  Shifting spokeswoman Carly Foulkes from girl next door to woman in control will continue. Honestly, T-Mobile needs to assert its brand to stay relevant in the consumer mindset as Q4 holiday selling begins.  Over the years, we always look forward to what T-Mobile will do for Black Friday. Recall the 'free airline ticket' promotion?>>

 Multi-Segment Player Highlights:
  • In the Business-to-Business (B2B) segment, T-Mobile looks to serve as a trusted communications advisor, helping businesses develop cost-effective, high-value communications programs that meet their business objectives –through bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and mobile device management (MDM) programs as well as attractive international mobility and mobile broadband data plans.  The Company continues to aggressively expand its B2B sales force. << This is a very important area for T-Mobile. As it was consumer-focused for many years, it largely ignored the business space.  Now the company finds itself starting from scratch to build an effective B2B sales force. It's a tough sell as national rivals Sprint, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are very entrenched.  What is T-Mobile's differentiation in this area?  It's not that clear other than the same proposition on the consumer side - value.>>  
  • T-Mobile launched three new Mobile Virtual Network (MVNO) partnerships during the quarter: Spot Mobile, Solavei, and UltraMobile, adding to its existing partnerships with TracFone/SIMPLE Mobile and Roam Mobility. <<MVNOs represent almost  41% of the company's prepaid business and 12% of the customer base. These should have been technically counted as wholesale. >>  
 Challenger Business Model Highlights:
  • The Company continues with its efforts to drive operational efficiencies through the Reinvent program and is on track to achieve $900 million in annual gross cost savings, which the Company has started reinvesting in customer acquisition programs. << The first part of the rather long sentence is about the cost containment is emblematic of every other wireless carrier. But the details on reinvigorating customer acquisition may suggest further marketing spend, whether targeted or more broadly. >>