Verizon focused on execution as Sprint/T-Mo merger looms, DISH preps entry and Altice Mobile goes live
Cable companies entering the wireless market via mobile virtual network operator arrangements and the looming mega-merger of Sprint and T-Mobile US, along with implications that deal has for DISH’s wireless future, add up to a rapidly shifting consumer wireless market in the United States. Throw in the ongoing generational jump to 5G, and Verizon will differentiate by focusing on “choice, quality and experience,” according to Ronan Dunne, company executive vice president and Group CEO of Verizon’s consumer business unit.
Speaking during the recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2019 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference, Dunne discussed how recent organizational changes within the operator reflect its approach to shifting market dynamics as well as a service-based approach to the wireline/wireless convergence taking place as the operator builds out 5G and invests in fiber deployment.
In November, company CEO Hans Vestberg announced a restructure divvying the business into three groups based on the type of customer segment it serves: Verizon Consumer Group, Verizon Business Group and Verizon Media Group. The operator said each of the three groups will share corporate-wide professional resources related to the network, IT and staff support.
Dunne said, “We see the opportunity to bring the best of two networks and a common architecture together to give customers choice. And therefore, that opportunity to really face out to consumers as a single unit, bringing the best of the best to them, rather than to be focused on traditional divisions, which were technology-based rather than solution or service-based.”
On the competitive front, Dunne addressed a few different market machinations we’ll take one at time. Earlier this month, cable company Altice launched a wireless service, Altice Mobile, which runs on Sprint’s network and has a roaming arrangement with AT&T. Prices start at $20 per month.
Dunne said Verizon competes “very, very effectively” with Sprint’s network already and, “I don’t expect that to be different for those who are riding on the Sprint network. You’ll note that they don’t have a roaming agreement with us. Sprint customers, when they find the holes in the Sprint network, can come on the Verizon network, but Altice customers can’t.”
Sprint and T-Mobile are deep into the process of a $26 billion merger that will re-brand the combined company as New T-Mobile helmed by T-Mo’s current CEO John Legere. A number of state attorneys general are challenging the deal as anti-competitive and, in the interim, the carriers are independently pursuing 5G deployments while also prepping a large-scale network integration.
Dunne, in a response to a question, reiterated Verizon hasn’t taken an official view but said, “It’s complicated…I wake up in the morning and I have a clear strategy that’s being well articulated that my investors know and understand, that my customers get. I’m not sure anybody else in the market can make that statement just at the moment. So we’re really focused on that clear execution, while others may be distracted by other things.”
And then there’s DISH. The company has a big pile of spectrum licenses it needs to put into service, which prompted leadership to announce plans for a $10 billion standalone 5G network build starting with an NB-IoT network. In the late stages of Sprint and T-Mo seeking regulatory approval, DISH got into the mix and came out with access to New T-Mobile’s network via an MVNO deal as it builds out a facilities-based network using, at least in part, wireless infrastructure divested during the Sprint/T-Mo network integration.
Dunne pointedly called out that DISH has been talking up wireless for some time without offering up a service. “The exam question is,” he said, “can and when will DISH be an operator? It’s shown no evidence of that today.” If everything falls into place and DISH does enter the market, “I don’t see that as a reason to divert me from the strategy we have today, which is foundational around the fact of network as a platform.”