T-Mobile continued adding mobile and internet customers in the second quarter and raised its expectations for the full year, an uncharacteristically confident sign in the middle of so much economic uncertainty.
But the company took a loss in the period as a result of continued costs from the Sprint merger, as well as the settlement related to one of its data breaches.
Still, the higher guidance stands in contrast to a shakier economy amid rising prices. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert admitted that the company’s “bad debt” of uncollectible payments had risen, though that was in line with expected trends. AT&T noted that some of its subscribers were taking longer to pay their bills, while Verizon continued to suffer subscriber losses.
T-Mobile notably did not raise its plan tier prices in the period, part of a promise it made to the US government to secure its acquisition of Sprint. But it did raise the cost of several small fees, including a slight upcharge in late fees and pricier one-time support fees for adding phone lines when calling T-Mobile’s help lines (there’s no increase for doing it online, however).
T-Mobile said in its second-quarter report Wednesday that it added 1.7 million postpaid net customers, of which 723,000 were postpaid mobile subscribers. These customers who pay their accounts at the end of the month are considered a key metric of success in the industry, as those customers are sources of dependable revenue.
This extends a streak of relatively good quarters for the carrier, which followed growth in postpaid, prepaid and home 5G internet users in the April quarter. T-Mobile said it expects full-year net customer additions to fall to between 6 million and 6.3 million, an increase from its prior guidance of 5.3 million to 5.8 million.
T-Mobile also noted that it had extended its coverage lead. Its low-band 5G network now reaches 320 million Americans, while its faster and wider midband Ultra Capacity 5G now covers 235 million, and the company said it expects to cover 300 million by the end of 2023. By comparison, AT&T plans to cover 100 million people and Verizon plans to reach 175 million people by the end of the year.
“We’re ahead on our coverage rollout on 5G, we’re ahead on our spectrum transition, we’re ahead on our integration goals that we established when we put that plan together,” Neville Ray, T-Mobile president of technology, said during the company’s earnings call Wednesday.
The second quarter results for T-Mobile were more positive than those for AT&T, which reported last week it had added 813,000 net postpaid subscribers but offered more commentary on the economic environment. Verizon had the least second favorable quarter as it lost mobile customers.
T-Mobile has a lead on 5G network coverage over its competitors, but that could shrink as Verizon and AT&T are expected to turn on more of their 5G midband by the end of the year. Those networks will expand even farther by December 2023 as those carriers secure licenses to more spectrum, though Verizon just turned on more of its midband 5G service over a year ahead of schedule. AT&T also reported that it’s ahead of schedule in building out midband 5G.
T-Mobile is still growing its 5G coverage, reallocating spectrum from Sprint’s legacy network and spending $3 billion on 3.45GHz midband spectrum in an FCC auction in January, where AT&T spent $9 billion for a larger chunk of 3.45GHz spectrum. That’s on top of the combined $81 billion bid in the C-band auction that ended in February 2021, in which Verizon bid $45 billion, AT&T bid $23 billion, and T-Mobile bid $9 billion.
The FCC will start a new auction this Friday, July 29, for sections of 2.5GHz spectrum, which is the range of 5G that the carrier already uses for its network. T-Mobile would use the new spectrum to fill geographic holes in its network, and the FCC has reportedly set auction conditions to be favorable to T-Mobile over protests from other carriers, according to Fierce Wireless.
T-Mobile has shuttered two-thirds of Sprint’s legacy network, which carries 1% of the company’s mobile traffic, and is on track to shut it down completely by the end of the third quarter. Legacy Sprint customers are being converted to T-Mobile plans and devices, and billing migration should last into the middle of next year.
T-Mobile added 560,000 high-speed internet customers, more than five times the 95,000 subscribers it added a year ago, as its 5G Home service takes off. This is a growth area for Verizon as well, which added 256,000 more net subscribers to its home 5G in the second quarter, a 50% increase in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, T-Mobile posted $19.7 billion in revenue, and with expenditures taken into account, resulting in a net loss of $108 million overall. This is down from the $19.9 billion in revenue and $978 million in net income during the same period last year.
The carrier’s $108 million in lost net income amounts to a loss of 9 cents in earnings per share, which was below expectations of 28 cents in earnings per share on Yahoo, and far below the 78 cents in earnings per share from the same period in 2021 .
Shares of T-Mobile stock were up 4% in early trading Wednesday.
Correction, July 28: T-Mobile added 1.7 million accounts that were specifically postpaid accounts. The carrier expects to cover 300 million Americans by 2023.