T-Mobile CMO knocks AT&T for 'being big and being bad'

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) CMO Mike Sievert said that the No. 4 carrier targets rival AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) the most in its advertising because, he claimed, AT&T has the largest pool of dissatisfied customers.

"They (AT&T) combine two things: being big and being bad," Sievert said during an appearance with other T-Mobile executives at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. However, in August J.D Power said AT&T outscored all other full-service wireless providers for "the overall customer service experience measured across its retail stores, online, and call centers."

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray also noted that it's relatively easy for AT&T customers to switch over to T-Mobile because both carriers operate GSM-based networks. 

Sievert also offered a thinly veiled criticism of rival Sprint (NYSE:S), which has maintained its unlimited smartphone data plans as a key differentiator. Sievert said certain competitors have "bet the farm" on unlimited data service, and he said that such a move is a "very dangerous place to be" because it attracts low-quality customers.

T-Mobile currently offers its own unlimited smartphone data service, and Sievert said the carrier would continue to do so, but he said T-Mobile has not based its entire strategy around such an offer. He and CFO Braxton Carter also said T-Mobile would look to "monetize" the carrier's robust spectrum portfolio as data usage continues to grow, though they declined to provide specifics.

In terms of that data growth, Ray said T-Mobile is seeing subscribers use 2 to 3 GB of data per month on average for high-end smartphones such as Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4 and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5.

T-Mobile reported 1.1 million net subscriber additions in the second quarter, including branded postpaid net additions of 688,000. Carter said that "wasn't just a one-time event. We are totally focused on sustained, profitable growth."

Part of that growth will be driven by the company's no-contract plans and its Jump upgrade program, Sievert said, but part of it will also be driven by the company's network. Ray noted that T-Mobile now covers 180 million POPs with LTE and guaranteed T-Mobile will be at 200 million POPs well before the end of the year.

Ray also said T-Mobile will deploy LTE on 10x10 MHz channels across the "vast majority" of the top 25 markets by the end of the year, and may even start to deploy LTE on 20x20 MHz channels in "some small areas" this year. The majority of T-Mobile's 20x20 MHz deployments will take place in 2014 and into 2015, Ray said. T-Mobile expects to migrate to 20x20 MHz LTE in 90 percent of the top 25 markets sometime in 2014.

In some markets, such as New York, T-Mobile has 50 MHz of contiguous AWS spectrum for LTE. While other competitors could use carrier aggregation technology to enhance their spectrum positions, Ray noted that presents complexities both at the network and handset level. "The easiest and cleanest path to high-performance LTE" is contiguous spectrum, he said.

Using a multi-operator core network, Ray said T-Mobile will be able to migrate the "lion's share" of MetroPCS' LTE traffic to the combined T-Mobile network this year. He also said that around 10 percent of MetroPCS' subscriber base has moved over from CDMA handsets to GSM/SHPA+ handsets that can run on T-Mobile's network for voice. T-Mobile is "slightly ahead of plan and moving very well," on that front, he added.

For more:
- see this webcast
- see this CNET article

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