Will T-Mobile overtake Sprint this year? John Legere isn’t so confident anymore.
In a letter outlining his predictions for the wireless industry in 2015, T-Mobile’s outspoken CEO made a number of bold statements: the sale of large phones (aka phablets) and wearables will soar and the Bellevue, Wash.-based carrier will cover 300 million people in the U.S. with its LTE network (up from 264 million today).
But Legere wasn’t as fearless when it came to backing up his previous prediction that T-Mobile would surpass Sprint by the end of the year in number of subscribers. The slight shift in wording may hint that its next-closet competitor is making more progress than T-Mobile originally thought, in part through an aggressive Sprint advertising campaign taking aim at AT&T and Verizon.
“They have been swinging the bat since I made that statement, so we won’t know where things stand until we get the final score after we both report Q4 earnings, but whether it is now – or soon – I’m telling you, it’s a done deal!,” Legere wrote in the letter today.
This summer was when he first made the promise, vowing that T-Mobile would pass Sprint by the end of 2014 after overtaking Sprint to become the largest U.S. prepaid provider.
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) August 6, 2014
And, then on a separate occasion, Legere repeated the statement, taking it a step further: “We will overtake Sprint this year, and next on our list is AT&T.”
Clearly, Legere still believes it will happen, but it seems he’s hedging on the timing, at least compared his previous smack talk. One logical reason for him to be iffy is because he simply doesn’t know. There’s one day left in the year, and T-Mobile won’t report fourth-quarter earnings until Feb. 19. Sprint has not yet announced when it will report earnings.
A T-Mobile spokesperson declined to comment.
The two could be really close.
At the end of the third-quarter, the two carriers were 2 million subscribers apart with T-Mobile registering 52.9 million vs. Sprint’s 55 million. In Q3, T-Mobile added 2.3 million total customers, whereas Sprint added 590,000, allowing T-Mobile to narrow the gap by roughly 1.7 million.
If Sprint does at least the same in the fourth quarter, T-Mobile will obviously have to perform marginally better to pass Sprint. However, if Sprint started to improve, then things become interesting.
Despite Legere showing a little less bravado than usual, he remained confident in the underlying statement that T-Mobile would pass Sprint to become the third-largest U.S. carrier. “T-Mobile will – officially – become the No. 3 wireless company in America in 2015,” he said.
Incidentally, both carriers still have a long ways to to catch-up to Verizon and AT&T, which are about the same size as Sprint and T-Mobile combined.