Had he not become a business executive, T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) CEO John Legere could have been a boxing promoter or a 1980s pro-wrestling manager.
The man knows how to get attention, and anything he does is interesting simply because he's doing it. But unlike Don King, "Captain" Lou Albano, or "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Legere always delivers on what he promises. He might be full of bluster and more than a little arrogant, but the T-Mobile boss has promised to change the industry -- and he has.
The Un-carrier, as Legere's brand nicknamed itself, was the first major carrier to get rid of contracts, something that Sprint (NYSE:S), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and AT&T (NYSE:T) have all either done or are in the process of doing. T-Mobile has also changed the wireless industry by eliminating overages, giving people access to music and video that doesn't count against their data cap, and having unused data roll over.
The rest of the industry hasn't followed all these moves, but when Legere talks, everyone has to listen. In his 2016 predictions, the CEO takes the time to salute himself. "You know, since we started this Un-carrier movement, I've faced a lot of critics who like to call me delusional," he wrote. "Well, I guess it's about time for the doubters to realize they were more than a little off base! This industry may be stuck in the past, but that is not how the Un-carrier rolls, and we've shown it while proving we can drive results!"
When he finished patting himself on the back, he laid out where his company will be going over the next two months and called out his rivals, including AT&T and, very specifically, Verizon.
T-Mobile's network will continue to improve
T-Mobile improved its LTE network in 2015, which works especially well with the latest iPhone model. That helped the company expand its capacity, and Legere believes that consumer perception of his brand as having a poor network will soon become less of a problem, it not disappear altogether.
He also took some shots at what he calls "the Duopoly," meaning Verizon and AT&T, for essentially resting on their laurels.
"The Duopoly barely added any coverage in 2015 while we have more than doubled our LTE footprint since 2014," he wrote. "We'll continue outpacing them in innovation in 2016."
He also said that "Verizon's PR machine notwithstanding," the upcoming 5G networks will be built "on the back" of 4G LTE technology, "and who's got both an advanced LTE network and the best mid-band spectrum capacity in the nation? Yeah. That's right. That'd be us," he wrote.
Legere also predicted victory in the upcoming low-band spectrum auction, and whatever he can buy, he pledged to use quickly to build out T-Mobile's network.
Verizon is in the crosshairs
Last year, Legere's stated goal was passing Sprint for the No. 3 position in the wireless business. He managed to do that, and in 2016 he has his sights set higher. He called out Verizon and name-checked its CEO, Lowell McAdam, in his predictions post:
Big Red is FINALLY starting to realize they have a real fight on their hands! Now that T-Mobile's LTE coverage has reached near parity and is still the fastest LTE network in the country (AND we continue to improve and build out our network faster than Verizon can even imagine), we are starting to see them sweat! ... Now they're even running ads focused on T-Mobile, targeting all the customers they've lost to us. Hey, Lowell, when you've lost so many customers that you have to take out a full-page ad to reach them, you're doing something wrong!
In some ways, Legere is using a tactic that boxers and radio personality Howard Stern once regularly used to get attention. Call out the champion or the biggest player in the game loudly and often enough, and eventually your target has to acknowledge you.
Once it does, you're already on your target's level. In this case, the more Verizon addresses T-Mobile, the more the cheaper carrier with the vastly improved network seems like a viable option to its customers.
All signs point up?
There is little reason to believe T-Mobile won't continue its growth in 2016. Legere is right in saying that his rivals use policies that are consumer unfriendly. Pricing plus not charging overages alone should be enough to get people to sample T-Mobile, especially now that its network is improving.
Legere talks the talk, but he also walks the walk. T-Mobile has been a pioneer, and by being first and constantly rolling out new pro-customer changes, it should keep gaining subscribers. That will continue in 2016 -- Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint should be worried.