How T-Mobile Enables Innovative Wholesale Solutions

How T-Mobile Enables Innovative Wholesale Solutions

Dan Thygesen, SVP and GM of T-Mobile Wholesale, on how America's Supercharged Un-carrier is Innovating in the Wholesale Space

With the United States’ largest 5G network, T-Mobile is truly a leader when it comes to innovating in wireless and beyond.

With a network covering more than 330 million people across two million square miles – more than AT&T and Verizon combined. T-Mobile also reaches more than 300 million people with Ultra Capacity, nearly everyone in the country.

“At T-Mobile, we actually don't consider ourselves a carrier,” explains Dan Thygesen, Senior Vice President of T-Mobile Wholesale and head of T-Mobile’s growing wholesale business. “We call ourselves the Un-carrier because we spend a lot of time and effort trying to solve problems that our customers experience across the consumer, B2B and Wholesale channels.”

As Thygesen describes, when it comes to Wholesale in particular, T-Mobile offers a full series of solutions from a comprehensive suite of products for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) to innovative IoT offerings that move the world forward. 

“Everything between consumer and B2B is heavily branded in terms of the actual value proposition and the products,” he explains. “The third part is Wholesale, where we invite and engage third parties to come and utilise our network.”

Central to this is innovating to enable partners – and T-Mobile itself – to succeed. “We're always looking for interesting and unique ways to be innovative about how we remove obstacles for our partners who are putting products into the marketplace.”

At the Forefront of Innovation

With a decade of experience in his current role and across 20 years at T-Mobile, Thygesen has continually been at the forefront of innovation throughout his career. “Back in the day, everybody could afford a pager, but it was hard to have a cell phone because they were big and expensive,” he says. “It was a novelty item which was heavily used in business but much less in the consumer market.”

As technology has evolved and the adoption rate has increased, Thygesen highlights the significance of contributing to something that is an absolute commodity in people's everyday lives.

“You will hear about people foregoing their mortgage payment, or their car payment and maybe even their latte in the morning,” he says. “But nobody will ever deprioritise access to their cell phone or to the internet through cellular connectivity because it's such a critical part of people's lives.

“The need to have access to the internet and to be continually connected to the people that matter most to you are things that certainly didn't exist 20 years ago. Because of the evolution of the technology and network capabilities, we have seen incredible growth in the industry.”

Building a High Capacity Network

For Thygesen personally, the incredible growth of T-Mobile – and the Wholesale sector specifically – has been a particular point of pride. “I'm super proud of the fact that our contribution to T-Mobile’s overall enterprise has played a large part in our company’s success,” he comments.

A notable point in this journey came with T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint in 2020. “The demand for people to come into this channel is very high. T-Mobile is positioned really well, given the extent of our product offerings and services and in particular as a result of our acquisition of Sprint.”

The Sprint acquisition has provided T-Mobile the opportunity to combine a number of strategic moves when it comes to building a 5G network. We made some big bets early on about 5G and how 5G would be the technology of the future. Even today we still see our competitors, AT&T and Verizon, trying to catch up.

“Our leadership team was bold enough to make some big bets, and quarter over quarter we continue to meet our goals. It's just been an amazing ride. Most of that is because we made the big decisions early on and we've been maniacally focused on delivering on those ambitions.”

How T-Mobile Wholesale Solutions are Enabling Success for Customers

Over time, T-Mobile’s offerings and solutions have evolved to provide a full suite of services. “There was a time where all we could really offer was access to the network,” Thygesen explains. 

“Today we've graduated into a place where we offer the full suite of services. If you want to own the end-to-end solution and just need access to our network, we're happy to enable that. At the same time, if a partner wants us to perform some function of their operations on their behalf, we have the diversified tools and the approach to meet that need.”

Originally there were a few big brands in the marketplace providing services that were similar to what T-Mobile was offering. “What we realised over time is that there are a lot of those opportunities, but it is often difficult to get started.” he says. “It's hard for people to move from an idea to a pilot or a proof of concept and then actually launch a commercial product.”

With the Un-carrier approach, over the last 10 years T-Mobile has been focused on finding ways to eliminate those obstacles. “Having in-depth discussions with prospective partners can enable an interesting and strategic approach. You never really have to say no to anything. Depending on how much somebody wants to invest, there's usually a working model that can get them onto the network,” said Thygesen.  

“We don't have the overhead or bandwidth to bring on every MVNO or IoT solution in a direct-relationship fashion. I have to pick and choose segments that are highly strategic and focus on a limited set of resources, but I never want to say no to the network.”  To help combat this, one of the strategic endeavours T-Mobile embraced was the creation of Mobile Virtual Network Aggregators (MVNAs). 

“MVNAs provide a lot of flexibility for the MVNO or the IoT solution provider in terms of what they need. If I can't offer something directly, I know the MVNAs have several solutions that a provider can explore to see if it meets their needs.”

T-Mobile Wholesale and IoT Solutions

Wholesale is a primary T-Mobile channel for enabling third parties to bring their value proposition to life for both consumers and businesses.

“Depending on what our partners would like to bring to market and how they want to implement it, we have a suite of tools and platforms that give them substantial flexibility.  For example, if they have a product that regularly roams from one country to another, utilizing eSIMs provides flexibility for a product that may require unique management due to supply chain issues or procurement models,” per Thygesen.

“Our tool set allows customers to pick and choose the types of solutions they will need to build and manage their business.  We then work to customise access to those solutions on their behalf.  Ultimately, the whole process is about showing T-Mobile’s partners and potential partners how easy it can be to actually get to market. There are some prerequisites for that, but we want to ensure that we are an enabler, not an obstacle.”

The Importance of Partners

Describing T-Mobile Wholesale as a 100% partnership business, Thygesen explains that the entire success of the Wholesale line of business depends on the success of its partners. “The onus is on us – as an operating entity within T-Mobile – to do everything we can to ensure the success of our partners.”

This continues to be true across different levels of partnerships. “We consider some to be more strategic depending on how engaged the company wants to be and the types of services they want to consume from us beyond network connectivity,” he says. “But every partnership is valuable to us because again, it's the way we bring value to the enterprise as a function of this line of business.”

T-Mobile works with brands with a unique proposition such as Tello. “Some of these prepaid brands realise that not everybody wants to buy an unlimited plan all the time. They do enough research on their own to figure out where the sweet spot is for different niches and segments of the market.

“Tello is a relatively new relationship for us. We're a couple of years into the relationship, but I can see they're on a very successful path because they're staying focused on the things they can do to relieve pain points and remove obstacles for their customers.”

What do the next 12-18 months look like for T-Mobile?

Thygesen predicts that T-Mobile Wholesale will see a lot of growth in the near future, primarily through the diversification of services that it offers to partners.

“Historically, we've offered commoditized talk, text and data. We have started building an application layer of value-added services on top of that so we can sell incremental services to our existing partner base beyond simple talk, text and data on the network.”

These services could range from loyalty programs to payment options such as blockchain-powered solutions that would provide digital subscriber IDs and improved fraud prevention.

“We think we can really help people drive security and safety into the product sets they offer. We currently have a diverse range of services in Wholesale, but there is certainly more we can do to create confidence in how we operate and how we help our partners grow their services in the marketplace.”

This year, Wholesale has plans to launch new, innovative services that will expand connection to the nation’s largest 5G network in remarkable ways.

Ultimately, when it comes to the future, Thygesen once again stresses the importance of partnerships. “We won't try to build everything ourselves because that's never really been part of our DNA. This line of business runs on two types of partnerships, our MVNO partnerships as well our partnerships with vendors and tech providers that bring our network to life for third parties who sell service and access.”

Thygesen concluded that, “This is truly a partnership business.  Being a reliable and supportive partner has enabled us to successfully grow and expand our business, which in turn, helps our partners grow their business.”

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