T-Mobile added more than 1.3 million customers in the second quarter, its 17th straight period with more than 1 million net customer additions. More than 800,000 of them were branded postpaid subscribers, the most coveted class of wireless subscribers, and T-Mobile said it expects growth in that category to lead the industry.
Revenue rose 10 percent to $10.2 billion, and profits were up 158 percent to $581 million at the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. behind larger rivals Verizon and AT&T.
But one of the biggest questions on the conference call was about the ongoing buzz about consolidation in the industry, including a long-rumored tie-up between T-Mobile and Sprint, reported partnership talks between Amazon and Dish Network, and an agreement between cable giants Comcast and Charter Communications.
“We know that Sprint needs to do something,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere, acknowledging that T-Mobile is interested in possibilities along those lines. However, he said, “We’re interested in focusing on our business and doing things in a methodical way, at our pace and our schedule. … I’m very confident about where we are.”
Legere criticized the agreement between Comcast and Charter not to make major acquisitions in the wireless industry on their own for one year as part of their broader partnership. They “made the gigantic move of deciding that they would sit together and not do do anything for a year. … Sorta sounds like restraint of trade to me.”
Asked about potential regulatory obstacles to wireless mergers, which blocked Sprint and T-Mobile’s ambitions to combine in the past, Legere cited the activity beyond the four traditional U.S. wireless companies as evidence that the industry is larger and more competitive than it would otherwise appear.
“All of the activity and the noise that’s taking place makes it clear that there is not four,” Legere said. “There’s far more than four. Outside of the four, there’s a whole new group leaning against the window, trying to get in.”
He added, “I certainly don’t have any inside track on how Washington would view the kind of horizontal mergers that you’re talking about. My assessment is that the current administration may look more favorably upon this, but I also think that if carriers were to go and propose a merger, if that were to happen, it’s up to them to make the story as to why that makes sense for the consumers, why it makes sense for the country, why competition would get greater.”
Although T-Mobile added 1.3 million net customers in the quarter, the company’s official count declined to 69.5 million customers from 72.6 million previously. T-Mobile said it stopped counting 4.4 million wholesale customers that were previously reported as part of the Lifeline program for low-income customers.
“We believe current and future regulatory changes have made the Lifeline program offered by our wholesale partners uneconomical,” T-Mobile said. “We will continue to support our wholesale partners offering the Lifeline program, but have excluded the Lifeline customers from our reported wholesale subscriber base resulting in the removal of 4.4 million reported wholesale customers as of the beginning of Q2 2017.”