For T-Mobile CEO, Getting Tossed From a Vegas Party Is Just the Beginning

John Legere, CEO and President of T-Mobile USA, makes an announcement during an event about new contract pricing on March 26, 2013 in New York City. Legere confirmed that T-Mobile will start carrying the iPhone 5 starting April 12, under it's new no-contract plan called The Simple Choice, with the customers paying $99 down, then $20 a month for 24 months, on top of the monthly service plan.
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Add to Briefcase
Laura Ryan
Jan. 9, 2014, 8:52 a.m.

T-Mo­bile CEO John Legere came out swinging at the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in Las Ve­gas.

The fourth-largest tele­com will of­fer up to $650 in cred­its to cov­er early-ter­min­a­tion fees and phone trade-ins for cus­tom­ers who switch over from AT&T, Sprint, or Ve­r­i­zon, Legere an­nounced Wed­nes­day in a speech at CES.

“We’re giv­ing fam­il­ies a ‘Get Out of Jail Free card,’ ” Legere said. “Car­ri­ers have coun­ted on staggered con­tract end dates and hefty early ter­min­a­tion fees to keep people bound to them forever. But now fam­il­ies can switch to T-Mo­bile without pay­ing a single red cent to leave them be­hind.”

This move is part of Legere’s broad­er vis­ion to upend the en­tire wire­less in­dustry since tak­ing over as CEO in 2012.

“We will be­come fam­ous for this in 2014,” Legere said. “We’re go­ing to force the in­dustry to change. I want every cus­tom­er to have a com­plete choice. It’s go­ing to be a health­i­er in­dustry.”

After a near-death ex­per­i­ence in 2011 when reg­u­lat­ors blocked an AT&T and T-Mo­bile mer­ger, T-Mo­bile has a new lease on life. The com­pany has ad­ded 4.4 mil­lion new cus­tom­ers in 2013.

T-Mo­bile in­tro­duced a string of of­fer­ings over to the last year — such as cheap­er plans and more-flex­ible up­grade op­tions — to woo cus­tom­ers away from AT&T and Ve­r­i­zon.

Legere’s flair is also piquing cus­tom­ers’ in­terests. The salty CEO, whose pink T-Mo­bile shirt and cheeky tweets have been a ubi­quit­ous pres­ence at the coun­try’s largest tech con­fer­ence, gained no­tori­ety earli­er this week when he was es­cor­ted out of AT&T’s party at CES.

T-Mo­bile’s de­fi­ant be­ha­viour is for­cing its com­pet­it­ors on the de­fens­ive. AT&T pree­mp­ted T-Mo­bile earli­er this week with a $450 of­fer­ing to T-Mo­bile cus­tom­ers, and began a mar­ket­ing blitz to pro­mote its speed. Ve­r­i­zon in­tro­duced a cheap­er plan to match T-Mo­bile’s plan in 2013.

The wire­less in­dustry’s un­der­dog has a long way to go, however, be­fore it catches up with AT&T and Ve­r­i­zon. The two largest tele­com com­pan­ies’ high-speed net­works ser­vice two-thirds of the coun­try’s mo­bile cus­tom­ers and cov­er a much wider ter­rit­ory. But T-Mo­bile is chip­ping away in both areas.

T-Mo­bile reached a $3.3 bil­lion deal with Ve­r­i­zon earli­er this week to pur­chase a swath of low-band fre­quen­cies — the most coveted type of spec­trum be­cause of its abil­ity to pen­et­rate build­ings in high-dens­ity areas and travel fur­ther dis­tances in low-pop­u­la­tion areas. T-Mo­bile’s first low-band ac­quis­i­tion will help im­prove its ser­vice in key areas, such as New York and Los Angeles.

Sprint floated the idea of a mer­ger with T-Mo­bile in Decem­ber, ac­cord­ing to people fa­mil­i­ar with the mat­ter. Such a mer­ger would likely en­counter for­mid­able reg­u­lat­ory op­pos­i­tion, es­pe­cially in light of T-Mo­bile’s re­sur­gence.

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