Whether gleefully poaching dissatisfied AT&T customers on Twitter or rebranding T-Mobile as the “Un-carrier” and changing long-established wireless practices, T-Mobile made a lot of noise in 2013. At CES in Las Vegas, CEO John Legere announced that all of that noise has moved the needle: T-Mobile had their best quarter in the last eight years in Q4 2013.
Coming off of a blocked merger with AT&T and a poor 2012, Legere seems to be reveling in the opportunity to shake up the marketplace and stake T-Mobile’s claim as a viable alternative to the three other major wireless companies. These brash changes seem to be especially effective at attracting online shoppers, as we see in Millward Brown Digital’s data: T-Mobile added almost as many new customers online in December 2013 as Sprint and more than AT&T. This is even more impressive when compared against T-Mobile’s online performance at the end of 2012; T-Mobile has truly come a long way in 12 months.
The surge in online orders was an important driver of the shift in Total Postpaid Gross Adds Share (incorporating both offline and online Postpaid Gross Adds), where T-Mobile has been progressively eating away at the share of their competitors. In particular, according to Legere, in Q4 most of their new carrier switches came from Sprint and AT&T. Although AT&T and Verizon Wireless continue to dwarf T-Mobile overall in size, this development will be a cause of concern for the other carriers throughout 2014.
While some of the “Un-carrier” developments prompted the other wireless carriers to respond in kind, AT&T is the first carrier to fight back directly. With the AT&T promotion targeting T-Mobile customers being announced only a couple of days before T-Mobile’s own long-rumored offer to pay ETFs of their competitors, it is clear that Big Blue in particular has been rattled by all of the disruptive changes T-Mobile is introducing to the marketplace.
Now that the T-Mobile offer has finally been confirmed, it appears T-Mobile is continuing to make waves in the sometimes sedate wireless market. When the FCC stopped the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger, it was because they wanted to see increased competition. T-Mobile has seized this opportunity to offer consumers something different, and they are well-positioned to continue stealing share from their larger rivals and disrupting the industry in 2014.
Nick Karr is an Associate on the Technology & Entertainment Practice for Millward Brown Digital. In this role, Nick provides data-driven insights and strategic guidance to leading retailers, telecommunications carriers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and their marketing partners. Prior to Millward Brown Digital, Nick worked with Nielsen BASES consulting with clients on the innovation process and how to successfully launch new products. Connect with Nick on Google+ or LinkedIn.