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T-Mobile reports 844K net adds in Q4

T-Mobile reported preliminary fourth-quarter postpaid phone net additions of 844,000, which comes up short compared with AT&T’s 880,000 postpaid net adds for the quarter, but still earns bragging rights.

T-Mobile reported 1.8 million postpaid net customer additions for the most recent reporting period, which is its highest fourth quarter in company history in terms of net adds.

Prepaid net adds were “light,” at 49,000 for the quarter, and prepaid churn was “a little high” at 3.10%, said Raymond James analyst Ric Prentiss. Postpaid phone churn was worse than expected at 1.10% as it still works through the Sprint integration/migration process, he noted.

For the full year 2021, T-Mobile also reported 546,000 high-speed internet net customer additions, ending the year with 646,000 customers in that segment. That represents a big growth area for T-Mobile and one that’s generating a lot of interest from investment analysts.

Along those lines, New Street Research’s Jonathan Chaplin said T-Mobile’s 224,000 fixed wireless broadband adds in the fourth quarter were “well ahead of expectations,” but he doubts many will be surprised they beat the target after strong third-quarter 2021 results.

Verizon hasn’t reported preliminary fourth-quarter results, though it warned that net adds will not be strong this quarter given aggressive promotions at AT&T, Chaplin said, noting that he and his New Street colleagues are looking for 570,000 phone net adds for Verizon in the quarter and the consensus among analysts is 575,000.

T-Mobile released its preliminary Q4 results on Thursday as CFO Peter Osvaldik appeared at the Citi investor conference, where both AT&T and Verizon presented earlier in the week.

Unlike its two biggest rivals, T-Mobile is considered a “pure-play” wireless company in the sense it doesn’t have a wired legacy network. It’s also different in that it’s in the middle of a big integration with Sprint. The “un-carrier” closed the Sprint deal in April 2020 and has been fully involved in the decommissioning of redundant cell sites as well as the integration of billing and other operations.

Earlier Thursday, T-Mobile announced a new 12-year Master Lease Agreement (MLA) with tower company Crown Castle. Of the 35,000 small cell nodes covered in the deal with Crown, most of them involve upgrades, such as adding spectrum, to existing sites as opposed to building new locations, according to Osvaldik.

Naturally, Osvaldik used the occasion to throw some jabs at Verizon and AT&T. He said it’s “really fun to finally see Verizon and AT&T come to the party after saying that mid-band wasn’t the strategy and going millimeter wave for Verizon.” Of course, “it’s two years too late and we’re going to continue to be two years ahead of the game.”

T-Mobile ended the year with more than 210 million people covered with its Ultra Capacity 5G, which includes its 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum, and plans to reach 300 million people with mid-band by the end of 2023. That compares with Verizon’s announcement about covering 100 million people with C-band this month.

But Osvaldik didn’t stop there, noting that T-Mobile already has “100 MHz of depth with mid-band spectrum,” whereas Verizon is “stuck on a 60 MHz sliver of C-band until some time at the end of 2023, most likely.” He said that’s a “tremendous disparity” that already exists. With T-Mobile’s 300 million PoPs by the end of 2023, it’s well on its way to bring “200 MHz of depth of mid-band spectrum” to the party.

“So just the breadth and depth of what Neville [Ray] and his team are building here from a network perspective is miles ahead of what Verizon is announcing,” he said. “AT&T, it seems like they’ve announced 75 million as a goal by the end of 2022, so it feels to me like they decided their customers just don’t deserve 5G. So, we’re here to help. We’re building the network that can definitely cover everybody and has the capacity.”

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