T-Mobile isn’t looking to buy a cable TV company after all.
Speculation that the No. 2 wireless company was working with activist investment firm Jana Partners to acquire cable TV and internet provider Frontier swirled last week. Reuters had reported that Jana had taken a stake in Frontier and was pressuring it to sell. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert addressed the rumor directly in the company’s earnings conference call on Wednesday.
“I can clarify, we’re not the partner to Jana in the transaction that was rumored a couple of weeks ago, although we remain interested in partnerships like the kinds we have rolled out pilots around and other constructs that are generally capital-light generally off balance sheet,” Sievert said.
Sievert’s strong denial adds some clarity to the wireless company’s efforts to get deeper into the broadband business. The company’s 5G home internet business remains hot, having added 557,000 customers in the third quarter alone, but it also has experiments offering fiber internet service in to a small number of customers. For now, those bigger ambitions for broadband will remain in the form of tests.
“We are conducting all kinds of experiments in the space, including observing our national performance in 5G home broadband which, if anything, that performance and the resonance of our brand and our team’s ability to execute in the space, along with the trials that we’re doing in fiber, only bolster our confidence that our brand and our team belong in this market,” he said.
Anything T-Mobile does in this area will be “capital-light,” he said, likely nixing the idea of spending big on an acquisition like Frontier or even other mid-sized broadband providers.
Sievert has previously said that he sees 5G home internet serving customers in the single-digit millions using its existing capacity and the spectrum that’s coming. While the company could invest capital to upgrade the infrastructure to support more customers, it hasn’t made this decision. He only said to the investors on the call that “we remain open-minded to whether there are techniques that would allow us to deploy capital specifically for 5G broadband and make a great return to you.”