T-Mobile CFO: More 'uncarrier' moves planned this year, 600 MHz auction 'very important'

A top T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) executive said that the carrier plans to make more "uncarrier" announcements throughout this year and next year in an effort to shake up the industry and maintain its momentum in the market. T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter also said the operator sees low-band spectrum as "very important" to its future, and is very interested in the FCC's upcoming 600 MHz incentive auction of TV broadcaster spectrum.

In an appearance at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Carter was questioned whether T-Mobile has additional "uncarrier" announcements planned. "Absolutely," he responded. "This is all part of a continuum. And it's all additive.

"We have several other very interesting initiatives planned for this year and next year," Carter said. "We have no intention whatsoever of stopping the innovation."

However, Carter sidestepped a question about whether T-Mobile would lower its service pricing in an effort to challenge its larger rivals Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T). "We do need to have a return" for the carrier's shareholders, Carter said.

T-Mobile has added 6.1 million total customers in the past four quarters since it launched its uncarrier ad campaign, which initially focused on uncoupling the price of a phone from the price of T-Mobile service. The campaign has since expanded to include free data for tablet users, discounted roaming costs and paying customers' Early Termination Fees when they switch to T-Mobile.

Carter also discussed T-Mobile's desire to acquire more low-band spectrum, likely through next year's 600 MHz spectrum auction. "We're very excited about it," Carter said of the auction. He said T-Mobile may participate in this year's AWS-3 auction, but noted that "our priority is low-band [spectrum]."

"What we don't have today is a contiguous nationwide low-band (spectrum). And that's very important," Carter said, explaining that, with mid-band spectrum like 1900 MHz, it takes three towers to cover the same geography as one tower of low-band spectrum like 600 MHz.

"Our priority is really to build out a nationwide footprint" with low-band spectrum, Carter said, adding that T-Mobile's acquisition of Verizon Wireless' 700 MHz A Block spectrum for $2.4 billion earlier this year represents a step in that direction.

Carter also said that T-Mobile supports the current structure of the 600 MHz auction, which would offer licenses in 5x5 MHz blocks. "We can execute our business model very effectively with a 5x5 or 6x6 deployment," Carter said. "We think we could get by with 5x5."

Not surprisingly, Carter was questioned about consolation in the wireless industry. Sprint (NYSE: S) and SoftBank have been rumored to be preparing a bid to merge Sprint with T-Mobile--although they could face significant opposition from regulators. Without discussing any specifics, Carter said that T-Mobile would support additional consolidation in the industry.

"If we had the scale that is equivalent to AT&T and Verizon… we would have much more of an ability to compete on all aspects and all levels with AT&T and Verizon," he said. "The uncarrier model would be substantially enhanced with additional scale."

For more:
- see this T-Mobile release

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