Once considered an afterthought, T-Mobile has added more than 2.6 million new subscribers over the last two quarters. Remember when T-Mobile was the last of the majors to offer 3G, the Apple iPhone and 4G LTE? One only needs to look at what T-Mobile is doing in some of its markets like Dallas where 20+ 20Mhz service is bringing T-Mobile customers there, extremely fast data speeds. Overall, based on data captured from Ookla's Speedtest.net app, T-Mobile's LTE customers averaged 17.8Mbps download speed. In comparison, Verizon customers averaged 14.7Mbps, AT&T subscribers averaged 14.3Mbps and Sprint members averaged 7.9Mbps.
According to Ray, the genesis for the turnaround came when AT&T backed away from its $39 billion offer to buy T-Mobile, due to regulatory issues. Terms of the break-up fee gave T-Mobile a ton of spectrum and $3 billion in cash. It was a lethal combination for other carriers as T-Mobile sat down to get its house in order. In addition, while Verizon and Sprint had to upgrade their backhaul, T-Mobile already had high-speed fiber laid down because of its HSPA+ pipeline. The carrier employed the 1700Mhz and 1900MHz spectrum it already owned to start its LTE rollout, and the acquisition of MetroPCS brought spectrum that was a perfect fit for T-Mobile. Ray also pointed out that while Verizon chased population (Ray's words), they were not prepared to offer good customer experience in some major metro markets.
And as T-Mobile starts to generate more business, it too will have to deal with heavy demand for data. Consider that users of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on T-Mobile's LTE network are consuming over 4GB of data each month. And there is plenty of room to grow. Currently 66% of the nation's population is covered by T-Mobile's LTE network (amazing when you consider where it was at last year) and 73% is within reach of the operator's HSPA+ pipeline.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 users consume over 4GB a month on T-Mobile
But all of these things don't matter if T-Mobile can't deliver the goods. A recent deal with Verizon brings much needed 700MHz spectrum to the carrier, which should help. T-Mobile has come out of nowhere to close a pretty daunting gap it faced against its rivals. If things continue in this way, who is to say where the carrier will be in two to three years. It might be enough for Dan Hesse, Randall Stephenson and Dan Mead to experience some sleepless nights.
Still the subject of takeover rumors, the most recent of which has Japan's SoftBank in the final stages of talks to acquire T-Mobile, the carrier's executives have very little say over whether the company gets purchased. With the majority of its stock owned by German operator Deutsche Telekom, any suitor needs only to buy out that block of shares to take over what has been the most innovative carrier (if not company) in the U.S.