In March, one of the larger news stories in the wireless telecommunications industry was the announcement that AT&T would acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion.
What maybe went unnoticed behind the headlines was T-Mobile’s decision in January to begin regionalizing its business, moving management staff from Bellevue, Washington, where the company is headquartered, to specific regional management teams, much like how other wireless telecommunications companies operate, at least locally, where wireless competition is fierce.
AT&T and Verizon both have regional managers that oversee operations here in the Philadelphia region, as we’ve covered in Q&As of the past, like AT&T GM Dan Lafond and Verizon Wireless GM Mario Turco.
The new Greater-Philadelphia Tri-State Vice President and General Manager Martin Pisciotti will oversee upstate New York, Delaware, Southern New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. What it means for Philadelphia is that T-Mobile operations in the region, which include 850 employees and 700 retail partners, will see better oversight to help the organization run more efficient on a local level.
We spoke to Pisciotti, who swung by our offices last month, about the new position and what else it means for Philly.
Why did you decide that now is the right time to regionalize the company?
The company created a regional executive team in January. We got to a point where [working from Bellevue, Washington, where T-Mobile is headquartered] wasn’t the most efficient. It’s easier to find the right newspaper for marketing, or to locate a store in the right neighborhood with regionalization.
Or, let’s say we have a partner and one of our retail stores on the same street. It’s a channel conflict if they feel like they are competing. I can help them orient to our true competitor, and compete against an AT&T or a Sprint. It’s a smart step for us and we feel that its about time.
Was this something that came from the AT&T acquisition?
No, before that. It’s something we intended to do for a while. And until the FCC approves [the acquisition], day-to-day, my operations aren’t changing. AT&T is still a competitor.
What’s the local foot print look like?
We have 850 employees, most in our retail stores, and in customer care and engineering. We also have over 700 partners in national and individual retail [85% of which is located in the Philadelphia region].
How about infrastructure—how has the technology grown in the region for your customers?
Over the last 18 months, we’ve invested $81 million dollars in the region [70 percent is in the Greater Philadelphia area]. We continue to look at towers and speed.
And how are you guys involved on a local level in the community?
We’ve worked with City Year since 2006 to rehab after-school programs. And regionalization is another way to get involved, through sponsorships, outreach events, going beyond the retail presence. It’s an opportunity to connect.
How is T-Mobile continuing to compete in the local marketplace with value competitors like Cricket, Boost and MetroPCS?
Philadelphia is rabidly competitive. But that’s not limited to the value handset, prepaid, all-you-can eat rate play. You have to compete by segment. We rolled out monthly 4G, which used to be classified as prepaid. [At the heart], it’s an affordable way to have access to our network. A national wireless company like us has to step in on that level and compete with value plans, post-paid or pre-paid.
We’re also excited about new rate plans coming out: historically, when you buy a wireless contract, the handset price is subsidized. We’ll be offering less expensive plans with the option to buy the phone on your own.
Does every consumer understand what 4G is? Is it too technical for them?
What they do care about is whether or not they can make a call without congestion. In some cases, like video chat, they can do it and it works. We encourage folks to do a speed test. A year ago, were you able to stream Netflix, or get YouTube down? Today, you can do so much more than you could on a 3G connection. In some cases, people are seeing faster speeds on their device compared to at home.
What are your operational priorities? What do you leave this room to do
Some strategic things are set nationally: brand offerings and messaging, for example. Beyond that, the company has told us to run things as we see fit. We work in that structure. But, for example, our B2B director and our retail director, we want them to work together. We want [a small business] to come into a retail store and ask, ‘we have five employees, how can you help us?’ Six months ago, a retail store might not have been able to help. But with our different departments working together, we will have ways to make it work.