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T-Mobile’s Legere: What’s Next In Wireless

T-Mobile president/CEO John Legere was seldom at a loss for words in 2015, and he isn’t about to change now.

In a lengthy end-of-the-year blog, he lays out his top 2016 predictions — for TMO, his competitors, the wireless business, and a bunch of other stuff.

TWICE has taken the liberty of omitting most of the hyperbole, leaving a host of thoughtful insights on everything from mobile to mixed martial arts.

The complete blog is available here, and you can handicap Legere’s forecasts with his own review of his 2015 predictions, here.

It’s really clear to me that the U.S. wireless industry will start to look very different after this year, and though we may not see this industry completely change in 2016, I believe we will see more trends and paths for what may come in 2017 and beyond.

So here are some of my thoughts about wireless in the New Year:

1. The low-band spectrum auctions will be the most important in recent U.S. history and will shape the future of the wireless industry for decades to come.

The other guys have already hoarded 73 percent of the nation’s low-band. When we bought some of what they’d been sitting on for years, we immediately built out a huge Extended Range LTE network in a matter of months. The carriers have shown they don’t know what to do with their hoard. This upcoming historic low-band auction is going to most benefit the provider that knows how to best use it.

2.Consolidation rumors will continue.
OK, so not all of these are unexpected, but just because I know you are all thinking it — I’ll take this one head on! Rumors about consolidation in wireless will continue this year, and Dish will be tap dancing in at least half of them.  I am sure we’ll see at least three different versions of new M&A ideas and rumors in U.S. wireless this year, and I’m sure T-Mobile will be in the middle of all of them! 

But the reality is that I am sure this industry will look incredibly different in a few years one way or another, and no matter what happens, T-Mobile will be positioned for success! We will continue to compete and win on our own and we’ll see how the market landscape changes over time. Enough said!

3. Mobile payments will take root and start to build real momentum —and eventually they’ll conquer the future. 

It is tough to change years of ingrained multi-generational behavior … kind of like showing the Duopoly how to give a damn about their customers! So it’s no wonder that adoption and active usage of Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay has been a little slow, despite some pretty fantastic apps and new technologies.

I believe that adoption will remain modest in 2016, but we’ll see more usage and signs that mobile payments are truly the future as the millennials and Generation Xers really start to try this out and banks become more aggressive in promoting and showcasing how easy it is to pay with your phone! 

By the time we are all shopping for gifts next holiday season I’m sure you will see a lot more mobile phones used to buy your mom her favorite holiday present — I know I’ll be part of that group!

4. IoT (Internet of Things) will start to be more than a few buzzwords.

We’ve been hearing about IOT for a long time — especially from AT&T who thinks they can mask their flailing consumer wireless business with lots of cars and other low-value IoT connections.

In 2016, we’ll start to see some real implementations practiced, probably along the lines of what Google’s done with Nest — which is, of course, available at T-Mobile.  These “just-works” appliances will be smart enough and helpful enough that consumers will catch on and start to adopt IoT devices in meaningful numbers.  And, for T-Mobile, when we see these markets get ready for prime time, we’ll be ready to disrupt them just like we’ve done to the carriers everywhere else!

Now, as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I’m not all wireless all the time. So I’m going to go out on a limb and make a few broader predictions:

1. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will hit a tipping point in 2016. 

It’s clear VR/AR will be big — already expected to be a nearly $3 billion hardware market in 2020. This year, we were one of the first wireless operators to carry VR gear — and we sold out of the Samsung Gear VR in a matter of days.

By holiday season next year, VR/AR gear will be a must-have gift, and the VR arms race will be underway with different providers — from Facebook/Oculus, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, HTC and maybe even Apple or Alphabet — all lining up their devices and content ecosystems.

I think in 2016 we’re going to see some room-based systems that are going to blow your mind! It will be crazy fun stuff! As a matter of fact, I’ll bet VR/AR sales are close to five times as big during next year’s holiday shopping season as they were this year! 
I’m also going to make a call that HTC will be a surprise innovator here with VIVE.  They’re in a must-win situation, but they’ve got a lot of talent over there. I can’t wait to see what they deliver!

2. Drones will go from hobby/toy to super, amazingly useful.

The buzz about drones has been crazy ever since Bezos said Amazon would deliver packages with drones — and that was like two years ago! Where’s my drone delivery, Jeff?

OK, I get it. These things are complicated … but while drone delivery to my front door hasn’t quite happened (and the FAA is sorting out the rules), I do think we are going to see some amazing new uses of drones in 2016. At T-Mobile, we already use drones to help inspect remote cell towers, and I can’t wait to see how other companies put these amazing things to use. It is going to be game changing, and I think it is one to watch!

3. Periscope (and social media overall) is going to keep getting bigger and better! 
If you follow me, you know I love Periscope. It’s an incredible way to connect directly with customers and employees, but there are still a lot of people who don’t Periscope regularly. Well, that’s going to change in 2016. We’re gonna see everyone — from celebs to politicians — start to understand how awesome it is for connecting with their fans, followers and customers!  As a matter of fact, I’ll be really surprised if we don’t see Facebook Live and Periscope play significant roles in the U.S. presidential election this year. The candidates are nuts if they don’t take advantage of these tools to connect with voters!  But even if politicians don’t see the real value of Periscope, I’ll bet we see some really innovative uses this year!

4. I’ll get into Twitter battles with more presidential candidates.

So many candidates, so little time.

5.  Rhonda Rousey will climb back on top of the UFC … and stay there.

Unfortunately, my call for a Rousey v. Trump match will probably not happen. Though a man can dream.

6. Batman will trounce Superman in “Batman v Superman.” (Premiering in 86 days, but who’s counting.)

Of course, the Dark Knight will win. Because I am Batman.

OK, so there you have it!  Some things to watch in 2016 … but the bottom line is that I predict another fantastic year for T-Mobile and our customers everywhere!

So here’s to another incredible, industry-shaping Un-carrier year!

John Legere is president/CEO of T-Mobile.