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Worst of the Week: My best of 2013

Hello! And welcome to our Friday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at RCRWireless.com to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!

And without further ado:

As the calendar has now turned over to December (do people even have “turn-able” calendars any more), thoughts begin to turn towards what the hell just happened over the past 12 months? I mean, one day I am waking up to a spinning room at some point in the afternoon on Jan. 1, and the next thing you know it’s December.

Being that somehow the past (nearly) 12 months seemed to have zipped by, I figured I would jump on the bandwagon of looking back at what stood out in my quickly aging mind across the telecom space in 2013. And for the life of me, all I can remember is what a boring year it might have been if not for that pink-shirted crew at T-Mobile US.

I would be willing to (figuratively) argue with just about anyone that T-Mobile US was the saving grace for the domestic wireless carrier space. I mean for a company that a year ago seemed on the verge of going to a dark room and waiting for the end to come, 2013 showed that size really doesn’t matter. In fact, being small and nimble may just be the trick in upsetting the status quo.

Just about everything T-Mobile US did this year did the two things all decisions or actions in the mobile space should do: bolster the decision/action maker’s position and piss off the competition. (Normally I try to refrain from working “blue,” but I feel in this instance when discussing a company whose CEO likes to litter his speeches with one or more “of the seven,” well it’s ok.)

T-Mobile US’ first move was to “re-introduce” its emphasis on doing away with contracts and instead tying customer retention to a monthly device payment, putting everyone on notice that the way things had been might not remain that way for long. This move was followed by its push to spread LTE services across a vast majority of its network as quickly as possible, something bolstered by its acquisition of MetroPCS (more spectrum!) and a nice chunk of spectrum T-Mobile US was granted following AT&T’s failed 2011 acquisition. (The gift that truly keeps on giving.)

(Speaking of which, just imagine how different the wireless space would be today had AT&T been allowed to purchase T-Mobile USA. I would guess that move would have resulted in Verizon Wireless picking off either MetroPCS or Leap, or MetroPCS and Leap finally consummating some sort of merger in order to remain competitive. Also, cats and dogs would now be living together … basically mass hysteria.)

The no-contract push pretty much forced all domestic carriers to re-evaluate their prepaid offerings and was a driving force to AT&T literally losing its mind trying to figure out how to respond. (Aio Wireless? LTE for GoPhone? Leap? Help!) While the network push pretty much sent Sprint into the deep end of self-despair as everyone wondered how in the world could the carrier that brought on the “4G” race, now be so far behind in providing “4G” services. (This is something we will get into in a week or so when looking back at the “worst” of 2013.)

Now, had those initial offerings not been followed up by an out-of-nowhere blowout second quarter, this tale of T-Mobile US’ resurgence and my enjoyment from that resurgence might have stopped right there. But, thankfully customers flocked to their nearest T-Mobile dealer,which only emboldened T-Mobile US to continue its crazy ways, while increasing the sleep medication allotment for execs at rival carriers.

T-Mobile US continued to push the boundaries with its JUMP device upgrade program, free international data and messaging and most recently free data for tablets. (Sure, the JUMP program requires an additional fee per month, the free international data is only for 2G speeds and the free data for tablets is just 200 megabytes, but no one else has or would have done any of these crazy things if not for T-Mobile US.

I know this is coming off a bit like hero-worship at the alter of T-Mobile US, something that makes mu skin crawl. But you gotta admit that 2013 would have been a much duller place without those guys. I know there were a lot of other things that happened this year that were also pretty cool (Verizon toying with Canada!), but for my money, T-Mobile US was indeed the best of 2013.

OK, enough of that.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Worst of the Week column. And now for some extras:

–I guess tinfoil hats are not such a bad idea after all as published reports this week seemed to have confirmed what that crazy guy on the street corner has been saying all along: the government is indeed tracking our every move.

The Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency has indeed been gathering information on all of our cellular phone calls. Let me just go ahead now and apologize to the person or computer program that had to endure the endless calls I placed to the local bar asking for Hugh Ghass.

–Of course, it looks like our President has found a way to sidestep all of this NSA tracking business: Mr. Obama still uses a BlackBerry. Leave it to those crafty Canadians to find a way to sneak their way to the top of the U.S. power structure.

I welcome your comments. Please send me an e-mail at [email protected].

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