Analysts Weigh in on T-Mobile's Future
Earlier this week, AT&T announced that it was discontinuing its efforts to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom—a decision that put an end to nine months of legislation and speculation about what would have potentially been the nation’s largest cellphone service network.
The death of that merger left an interesting question in its wake: what will happen to T-Mobile now?
AT&T, as the nation’s second-place wireless provider, will walk away from the break-up feeling a bit discouraged, but will be able to recover.
Deutsche Telekom is expected to receive a package deal from AT&T worth about $4 billion, consisting of wireless frequencies, cash and a roaming deal to last at least seven years. But even with that break-up deal, T-Mobile’s position and outlook is more uncertain than AT&T’s.
Some analysts see T-Mobile’s glass as half full and think that this could be a chance for Deutsche Telekom to refocus and progress. Others have a more sobering outlook:
Wolfgang Specht, Analyst at WestLB AG: “Stabilization is the first step and then it’s about finding a new partner in the medium term. In the long run, a standalone strategy seems impossible. Everything from here on is only a second-best solution.”
Tim Horan, Analyst at Oppenheimer: “From an industry perspective, post-deal breakup this makes T-Mobile the biggest wildcard in the industry. In our view, Deutsche Telekom has the option of possibly spinning off T-Mobile USA, or it could work to create a joint venture/co-build arrangement with AT&T. We do not envision Deutsche Telekom continuing to make significant investments in T-Mobile USA, though.”
Will Draper, Analyst at Espirito Santo: “While a merger with Sprint is probably the best long-term strategic option in the United States, there would be pain for Deutsche Telekom in the near term, starting with the need to invest in Sprint/T-Mobile USA.”
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Jim Breen, Analyst at William Blair: “We believe that T-Mobile will emerge refocused, without the overhang of a pending merger, and with improved network quality via the acquisition of the AT&T spectrum assets. T-Mobile has been aggressively asserting itself in both the postpaid and prepaid wireless segments and will likely continue its competitive push with additional spectrum.”
Robin Bienenstock, Analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein: “We think they will go back to the old fashioned sort of plan—run the business. T-Mobile USA will compete for prepaid customers and hope that Sprint or someone else comes under enough strain they free up more spectrum.”
In a conference call with reporters, Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, addressed T-Mobile’s outlook but remained mum about specific deals: “In the long term, we need more spectrum and network capacity,” Obermann said. “We are working on that. But we will not speculate about any inorganic steps or deals.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.