T-Mobile US (TMUS 0.40%) released preliminary fourth-quarter results earlier this month, and investors liked what they saw.
T-Mobile continued to show strength in postpaid phone subscriber additions, claiming it outpaced both Verizon Communications swear AT&T in the quarter. Likewise, its home internet business continues to outpace the growth of the rest of the industry.
The same factors that led to T-Mobile’s success last quarter ought to fuel more great results in 2023. Here’s what investors can expect.
Building network leadership
T-Mobile got a head start on the 5G network buildout, and it’s well-positioned to maintain its lead in 2023.
T-Mobile took a big bet on mid-band spectrum as the backbone of its 5G network. Its acquisition of Sprint gave it a trove of spectrum licenses that it is now using to build out and strengthen its latest-generation network. The company will continue to put that spectrum to work in 2023 to expand its coverage while improving speeds for those it already covers.
Importantly, T-Mobile still has work to do to convince consumers that its network really is the best in the industry. Verizon continues to hold a grip over many consumers’ perceptions of which carrier has the fastest, most reliable network with the best coverage. CEO Mike Sievert said at a conference last month that T-Mobile’s made progress in changing consumer perception, but there’s a lot of room to improve.
As perception catches up to reality, T-Mobile ought to continue winning switchers from AT&T and Verizon. Moreover, a strong network means happy customers who are unlikely to switch, especially since T-Mobile won’t raise rates like AT&T and Verizon did last year.
Expanding home internet coverage
T-Mobile’s home internet service is a key source of growth for the company.
After adding 2 million subscribers in 2022, it now has 2.6 million total customers. It’s well on its way towards its goal of 7 million to 8 million subscribers by 2025.
T-Mobile’s home internet service is supported by its wireless network. So, as it builds out the network over the next few years, it should increase the amount of capacity it can afford to offer households for home internet service. It’s taken steps to limit usage as it builds out the network, including limiting the number of households in an area and offering a data-capped plan.
Adding another 2 million households with its home internet service should support further growth in the wireless business. It’s another way for T-Mobile to win switchers, who may have bundled their home internet and wireless with Verizon or AT&T. What’s more, it’s another way to retain subscribers.
Further improvements in churn
Several factors ought to lead to more improvements in churn in 2023 for T-Mobile.
The above factors — a growing network lead and more home internet subscribers — will benefit churn. The shift of customers from Sprint to T-Mobile will help as well. Sprint, historically, had the highest churn rates of all the carriers. In the past T-Mobile broke out its churn rate for legacy T-Mobile subscribers, pointing to its superior customer retention versus AT&T and Verizon.
With a substantial subscriber base, churn becomes a much more important metric for supporting subscriber net additions. Just a few-basis-point change in churn can translate into hundreds of thousands of subscribers for the year.
While everyone else experienced an increase in churn in 2022, T-Mobile saw improvements. And while T-Mobile hasn’t quite gotten to the top of the industry, it’s not far off. Its postpaid phone churn matched Verizon in the third quarter and trailed AT&T by just 4 basis points.
As T-Mobile shows further improvements in churn, it should be able to win greater market share in 2023.
While the stock trades for a much higher multiple than its peers, the growth outlook for the company for both cash flow and earnings is extremely strong. Even after posting strong results for investors in 2022, it’s worth a look at the beginning of 2023.
Adam Levy has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends T-Mobile US and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.