T-Mobile to Fight 'Big Cable' with Layer3 TV-Powered Service

T-Mobile is launching its own paid TV service in an attempt to woo cable subscribers fed up with high prices, confusing bundles and lengthy contracts.

Credit: T-Mobile

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

In a press release, T-Mobile claims that its service, which will debut sometime in 2018, will be as disruptive to the cable TV industry as the company’s wireless cell phone service plans were in that industry just a few years ago.

The wireless carrier bought Layer3 TV, a company that makes streaming TV set-top boxes, to make its vision come to life. T-Mobile’s announcement today (Dec. 13) was light on details, such as launch date, pricing, or even what its TV offering will entail.

Here’s what we do know: T-Mobile will take Layer3 TV’s existing offering of more than 250 high-definition channels and a healthy amount of 4K content and fold it into a new package. Layer3 makes a set-top box, but T-Mobile said its service could incorporate either its own box or an app for a third-party box like an Apple TV or Roku.

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T-Mobile CEO John Legere believes the company can pick up the TV viewers who are abandoning cable in droves, though it’s unclear how this service will pull that off or how it will measure up to the many other cable replacement services out there.

The Layer3 acquisition is expected to close in a few weeks, at which point T-Mobile will actually start working on incorporating its technology in a new package. Layer3 TV’s current customers will continue to get the same service they already pay for while T-Mobile works out the details of its TV service.

During a press conference call on Dec. 13, T-Mobile executives said all you will need to watch T-Mobile’s TV service is an internet connection. That could be a broadband connection through an internet provider such as Comcast, or it could be via T-Mobile’s own wireless service.

T-Mobile also slammed rival carriers’ TV efforts as attempts to force customers to buy services they don’t want to get a discount on the services they do want. T-Mobile won’t do that, Legere said. Legere also said cable companies are “sh**ing themselves” with the news that T-Mobile is going to offer a TV service next year.

“Our vision of entertainment is mobile-based, over-the-top and unlimited,” Legere said. “Our customer base skews very young and this is their expectation of a TV product that doesn’t exist yet. We’re going to create it for them.”

The wireless carrier showed off a video clip showcasing a mockup of its TV service’s user interface, which is (unsurprisingly) extremely pink, but it’s unclear what the service will actually look like when it launches.