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T-Mobile Business Group President Mike Katz details new partnership with Alaska Airlines

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T-Mobile Business Group President Mike Katz sits down with Yahoo Finance's Brian Sozzi to outline the mobile carrier's exclusive partnership with Alaska Airlines.

Video transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, T-Mobile revealed an important new 5G contract win today. The telecom said Alaska Airlines has chosen it as its preferred wireless provider. Under the deal, the 10th largest airline by number of flights will implement T-Mobile's 5G to speed up services, such as ticketing and check-in. Let's dive into this deal with T-Mobile Business Group President Mike Katz. Mike, good to see you this morning. Who did you win this deal from? Who are you competing against?

MIKE KATZ: Hey, Brian. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah, you know, we're really excited about this deal. You know, Alaska made the choice to move its wireless business to T-Mobile as its preferred provider. And, you know, it's really indicative of what we're seeing in enterprise overall, where they are making their choices on wireless technology based on who's got the best and most contemporary technology today, but also whose technology is going to sustain over the next 5 to 10 years.

And airlines like Alaska and enterprise customers like Alaska put us through rigorous side-by-side testing with the incumbents. And, you know, with Alaska, T-Mobile came out on top, and they chose us. I can't say who the incumbent was because Alaska didn't want me to release that information. But you can guess it was one of two other wireless providers.

BRIAN SOZZI: Fair enough. So when I go to the airport, and I've been there during the pandemic a couple of times, my internet service is still ridiculously slow. I mean, when you look at airports across the country, how many are using 5G services?

MIKE KATZ: Many of them are, but I think there's an opportunity to upgrade and you're seeing upgrades happen rapidly. And I think one of the nice things about a partnership like this is it allows us to work closely with Alaska and the local ports who control the airports to do those upgrades, both in the terminals and under wing, where Alaska performs a lot of their tasks as they get flights going in and out.

BRIAN SOZZI: How difficult is it to build out these services in airport? Of course, there's traffic. There's regulatory considerations. But talk to us about building it out.

MIKE KATZ: Yeah, it depends oftentimes on the airport and where we're trying to put coverage in. And fortunately, with partnerships like the one we have with Alaska-- we also work with almost every other major airline-- we're able to work with the airline, work with the port, and get access to key things like backhaul so that we can put wireless services in the airport.

We've done upgrades at almost every major airport across the country. There's certainly still more work to do. And again, but we're optimistic that partnerships like this are real catalysts to help us upgrade the services, both for the airlines themselves through their operations but like you said, also for customers, as they're waiting on planes, both in the terminal and on the plane.

BRIAN SOZZI: So when I-- let's say I do fly Alaska Airlines next year, where are you seeing-- where will these services be implemented? Where in the process?

MIKE KATZ: Yeah, it's a great question. If you think about the logistics of airlines, it kind of blows your mind on how difficult it is to get these planes in and out all over the country in really, really short time frames. You know, planes pull up to the gate, and they have about an hour or so to complete a number of different tasks. And Alaska uses mobile as a core platform to complete most of those tasks.

So everything from all the underwing operations as baggage is scanned and comes in and out of the airplane, food services as they bring new food onto the airplane. Pilots use tablets for their flight plans that have to be downloaded. Flight attendants downloading transactions that happen from the previous flight. Ticketing happens on mobile devices, so when you walk onto the plane, your ticket is scanned by a mobile device. So it really is pretty ubiquitous across the airline. Mobile is the platform that they use to run their operations.

BRIAN SOZZI: At what point-- are we nearing the point where we can get 5G on an airplane? I mean, the Wi-Fi is terrible, Mike.

MIKE KATZ: The Wi-Fi is getting a lot better. Actually, I flew on Alaska out here. And, you know, a lot of the planes have been upgraded to the low orbit satellites, and they're pretty good. I was actually streaming Sunday Ticket, watching football on the airplane on the flight last night. So it's getting better. 5G is a ground-based technology, so it's probably not going to be up in the air anytime soon. But I know airlines like Alaska are doing a lot of upgrades to their satellite-- onboard satellite systems to make the experience a lot better.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, well, be sure to stream Yahoo Finance next time. Nothing gets football, but, you know, Yahoo Finance is streaming as well. We'll leave it there. Congrats on this deal. T-Mobile Business Group President Mike Katz, good to see you. Have a great rest of the week.

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