Sprint puts T-Mobile on Notice

by Matt Klassen on February 9, 2015

Over the last two years T-Mobile has attacked the likes of AT&T and Verizon through competitive promotions and aggressive pricing, going as far as to offer to pay Ma Bell’s customers early cancellation fees if they jump ship. But T-Mobile’s approach to its closets rival, Sprint, has been something quite different; as it seems eccentric company CEO John Legere hardly takes his slightly larger rival seriously, choosing to engage in a petty (albeit entertaining) war of words.

“Half-assed commercial, half-assed data speeds,” Legere tweeted several Sundays ago after watching Sprint’s Super Bowl ad. Although one might accuse Legere of simply grabbing the low hanging fruit, the truth of the matter is that Sprint’s performance in the wireless market over the last several years has been woeful, as a prolonged network upgrade has resulted in poor service and poor coverage, leaving customers frustrated and angry.

While this certainly isn’t the first time Legere has taken to Twitter to blast Sprint, lately his verbal jabs have grown bolder, not only because Sprint is easy fodder because of its routinely poor network performance and customer service scores, but because Sprint is finally attempting to do something to improve itself. Now Sprint CEO Marcello Claure has finally responded with a verbal volley of his own, saying that T-Mobile is in for a “rude awakening.”

“I think Legere is in for a rude awakening when new scores come out about network performance,” Claure said in an interview last week. “I let actions speak.” Tough words from a company that has disappointed more than surprised anyone over the last two years.

While Sprint has attempted its own aggressive promotions and discounts in response to T-Mobile’s ongoing UnCarrier scheme, focusing in particular on competitive pricing, the company still faces an uphill battle primarily because of its reputation for poor network service. It’s this point that T-Mobile’s Legere has focused on recently, although Sprint’s Claure has promised that things are about to change.

Claure noted that he expects Root Metrics, a network testing company considered by much of the market to be a credible gauge of network coverage quality, to deliver market data in the very near future that will show considerable improvement in Sprint’s overall network performance, particularly in several key American markets.

But such a prediction means little to Legere, who dismissed the claim and countered that Root Metric delivers out-dated information, stating that something like Speedtest.net offers a more accurate picture of network performance because it gathers data gleaned from users who run their own speed tests using the related app. In an industry that changes as fast as wireless, Legere notes, months old analytics from Root Metric are virtually irrelevant.

“If I were them, I’d be clinging to months-old data too,” Legere said in an email. “Everyone knows that Sprint has the worst network customer satisfaction in the industry — by a mile.” In fact, Legere is so confident that Sprint won’t be able to pull out of its death spiral that he predicted T-Mobile will surpass Sprint sometime in 2015. Of course he predicted his company would overtake Sprint in 2014, but some late fourth quarter gains by Sprint kept it clutching to third place.

For his part, Claure takes no issue with Legere’s prediction that T-Mobile will surpass Sprint. “T-Mobile has great momentum,” Claure said in response. “I’m focused on fixing the fundamentals whether we’re No. 3 or No. 4. Customers don’t care about rank. I’m not worried about whether we’re No. 3 or No. 4.” Translation: T-Mobile’s flashy UnCarrier promotions may reap temporary growth, but Sprint is attempting to improve things that will bring the company long term gains.

Say what you will about Legere’s penchant for taking the low road and sparking this petty war of words, the reality is that he has thrown down the gauntlet and now the pressure is firmly on Sprint to deliver its promised network upgrades, not only because this may be the last chance for Sprint to regain its footing, but because significant improvements will be the only way for Claure to make Legere eat his words.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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