TeleTalk: Wishing a Fond Farewell to Philipp Humm

Last week was full of news from Google, lawsuits from Apple, and the grim news of RIM’s possible and unfortunate demise. Amongst those things most people seemed to have glossed over the news that Philipp Humm, the former CEO of T-Mobile US had resigned last Friday. Philipp had been a shining light atop T-Mobile’s tower, yet this news went largely unnoticed due to the other events at the time.

Philipp, a German native, has completely left the Deutsche Telekom family (T-Mobile’s parent company in Europe) to pursue work with one of their competitors in Europe. This seems at first like a money play, but it was revealed that he did so to be closer to his family across the ocean. Taking a top tier job a Vodafone was surely a disappointment to many T-Mobile customers, including myself, seeing as we’ve gone through so much with this man at our helm. With him, T-Mobile has taken the top spot for Customer Service 11 out of the last 15 times as recognized by the JD Power Wireless Purchase Experience survey. Add this to the PR nightmare that was the AT&T merger, and you’ve got a man who has been through quite a bit for this company.

I guess I should mention that I’m a long time T-Mobile customer, and a very loyal one at that. I’ve been with the company since late 2006 after the Cingular/AT&T merger. I have a bit of a prejudice against AT&T, and did not want to become part of that family again at the time, since I was a Cingular subscriber at the time. I knew little of the wireless market, and learned the difference between GSM and CDMA when I went shopping around for someone who would let me bring my HP iPAQ hw6945 along with me, since it used a SIM card. My only choice in the area was T-Mobile and AT&T, so T-Mobile, at the time, won by default. Since that day, I have never been happier with a company as I have been with them.

Most people are quick to point out T-Mobile’s faults of a relatively weak network footprint and poor selection of cool new devices due to the awkward AWS frequency bands used for 3G/4G service. That may be the case, but there are plenty of iPhone users who are perfectly content to be able to only use EDGE service with T-Mobile, since the iPhone doesn’t use the same 3G bands as T-Mobile’s network. Personally, I dealt with EDGE data for several years before the iPhone was released, and then a few more after, and it never bothered me that much. I don’t download huge files on my phone, since I have a computer for that. I use my data for casual browsing, and occasional tethering. Both of those are respectably fast on EDGE only, although I’m sure some would disagree.

Now, out of all my time with T-Mobile, I have rarely had a need to call their customer care line. It’s been somewhere in the realm of a few times per year. That’s not to say that I never have problems with them, it’s just that they are very good about fixing errors before I have a need to call. Their phone support staff is always friendly and courteous and able to resolve even the most troublesome issues with relative ease. The last time I had to call them was for using their 411 service, which wasn’t able to help me find the place I was looking for. When the rep took my information to verify my account, he asked right away if it was in regards to the aforementioned 411 call. I told him yes, and he politely asked if they had been able to help me. I told him they tried, but couldn’t get it right, so he immediately reversed the charge and we ended the call. Five minutes from dialing to ending the call is how long it took to fix a simple charge. Before that, I got a statement in the mail with a credit already applied to an improper charge. I can’t help but think that these things might not have been as simple without Humm in charge.

He’s been leading the company through good times and a lot of bad, but he’s always been able to maintain a positive and challenging air about him when in public. During the AT&T merger, T-Mobile still continued to run ads attacking AT&T’s network in favor of T-Mobile’s. I can’t help but think that we all knew the merger was not likely to go through, so it may have been a plan for the future. We’ll never know that, but we do know that with Humm in charge, T-Mobile earned four consecutive titles from the JD Power and Associates firm for their exceptional customer service, market excellence, and network performance. T-Mobile consistently took home top marks in their customer service field.

I last saw Philipp at the CTIA conference in New Orleans, LA a couple of months ago. He was as invigorated as ever, as he once again took a shot at AT&T’s network and their flagship iPhone. Some people are quick to point out that they are comparing a phone to a network. Well, that may be true, but you have to admire the guts it takes to take a stab like that at the #2 wireless company in the US, and one whose subscriber base is nearly four times of their own. He was quick to answer questions and zing back one-liners across the stage at not only Ralph de la Vega of AT&T, but also quick to call out Dan Mead of Verizon on the topic of sitting on spectrum. I couldn’t help but to chuckle a few times in the audience over these things. It’s just not the kind of thing you see every day. The underdog of the wireless sector routinely pokes the big dogs with a stick.

Now, this news of Philipp leaving isn’t really anything new or surprising. Only the timing caught everyone off guard. Philipp had told René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, that he would be resigning at the end of the AT&T merger back in September. Well, that time past, but Philipp was still on the hunt as he finally announced that he was leaving T-Mobile to take a top tier position at Vodafone in the UK as Vodafone begins their slit up process of the company into smaller portions to increase service. This move also brings Philipp closer to his family in Europe, who have been patient and understanding of him during these last two years. I certainly can’t fault him for this, and I wish him all the best in the future.

It’s for all of these reasons that I am wishing former T-Mobile USA CEO, Philipp Humm, a fond and heartfelt goodbye as he pursues his career and family from here on. He has been an integral part of the T-Mobile family and the wireless sector in general for a wonderful two years. He’s steered the company through some rough waters, and seen fit to continue on with us even things seemed at their worst. Farewell, Philipp. May God bless you on all your future endeavors. You were a wonderful asset to this company and we will miss you.

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