Answering questions from reporters Wednesday night in front of an audience of enthusiastic employees and partners, T-Mobile CEO John Legere was careful not to comment specifically on T-Mobile’s widely reported merger talks with Sprint — a deal that would combine the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers.
However, he promised the cheering crowd, “In anything we do, it will be about the Uncarrier revolution and the T-Mobile company and brand getting bigger and stronger and changing the industry.”
It sounded like a message to regulators, who are reportedly concerned that the combination would hurt competition in the industry. And after the event — lounging in a tour bus outside Seattle’s Paramount Theater before joining Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on stage — Legere went much further in an interview with GeekWire, defending the notion of T-Mobile growing through a merger.
“I know what we’ve done in the last year-and-a-half is a small inkling of what real competition is like,” Legere said. “In order to keep it going, there’s things we need in the long term — scale, spectrum, etc. And one way to get those is consolidation.”
Speaking in Washington, D.C., this week, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson pointed out that regulators rejected his company’s own attempt to acquire T-Mobile, and said he believes a merger of Sprint and T-Mobile would face the same problem.
If an acquisition agreement is reached, and approved by regulators, Legere is reportedly in line to lead the combined company.
Legere didn’t specifically address the Sprint deal in the interview Thursday night, but said he believes the wireless industry is being “defined inappropriately.”
“For us to arrogantly believe that there are four wireless players is silly,” he said. “If you think about what’s happening with WiFi, what’s happening in the cable industry, what’s happening with people like Amazon, what’s happening with TracFone. What will happen with tangential players like Google and Microsoft and Facebook and others, this is a vibrant industry where people are migrating. So we’ve got to look at it differently from a standpoint of competition and where things are headed.”
He added, “I think the test has to be, will wireless consumers benefit from increased competition, and what’s the best way to get there? I’ve always believed that there’s still further consolidation in the industry that will get it there. It’s a strong personal opinion and it’s part of what we believe.”
Bellevue-based T-Mobile has been adding customers at a record pace following a series of moves by Legere and his team to shake up the conventions of the wireless industry. The company last night unveiled its latest initiatives — a seven-day “test drive” that will let prospective customers try the T-Mobile network on a loaned iPhone; and unlimited data for music streaming.