With AT&T acquisition pending, T-Mobile USA goes local in bid to revive its business

Eric Schlumpf

Eric Schlumpf is surprisingly upbeat for someone in his position.

As T-Mobile USA’s newly named vice president and general manager for the Pacific Northwest, he’s responsible for shoring up the Bellevue-based company’s subscriber base and leading the front-line employees in its home region as regulators weigh AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of the Deutsche Telekom unit.

Subscribers have been declining, internal severance planning has been less than smooth, and Deutsche Telekom acknowledged in its last earnings report that T-Mobile “continues to face some major challenges.”

And yet Schlumpf has this to say over coffee in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood: “There’s no better time to be a T-Mobile customer than now.”

His upbeat statement is based in part on T-Mobile’s rollout last week of discount plans for mobile voice and data service, coupled with AT&T’s promise that it will honor existing T-Mobile contracts and support its devices if the deal ultimately goes through. The company hopes that one-two punch will attract new budget-minded customers — people who care more about lowering their monthly bills than about the future prospect of transitioning to a new carrier.

Meanwhile, despite the loss of its presence in Radio Shack stores, T-Mobile is hoping to increase its retail footprint overall, by adding more partner locations that carry the T-Mobile brand.

And while T-Mobile doesn’t carry the iPhone, it’s attempting an end-around by offering a Micro SIM card that allows unlocked iPhones to run on its network.

Schlumpf’s new position is part of a broader effort by T-Mobile USA, started earlier this year, to move away from a centralized management structure toward more regional operations. The idea, he says, is to give executives more flexibility to respond quickly to trends in specific markets and retail stores.

Schlumpf worked for companies including Deloitte Consulting, Arthur Andersen and Motorola before joining T-Mobile last year as vice president of customer retention. In his new position, he oversees sales initiatives in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Hawaii. T-Mobile says those areas cover  1.4 million customers, 78 company-owned retail stores, 151 branded partner and indirect dealer locations, and more than 383 national retail partner stores. It also includes more than 800 salespeople.

We’ll find out more about the current state of T-Mobile USA’s business later this week, when Deutsche Telekom reports its results for the first half of the year.

  • Guest

    As a recent AT&T-to-T-Mo convert (shortly before the merger was announced) I say, “No! Don’t honor the T-Mobile contracts! I want a way out!”

    AT&T was a lousy cell phone company; T-Mobile is worse. I want to try one of the other two cell phone companies in the blind hope that it’ll be better.