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T-Mobile has ramped up what it calls the Uncarrier initiative, aimed at “freeing Americans from the from the greedy, absurd practices of the old wireless companies.” That's most likely marketing hype, but whatever the case, T-Mobile's Uncarrier policies are good for customers.
In the last week there were three days of Uncarrier announcements, and the early opening of retail locations for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S 5 and the HTC One (M8). First of the announcements was the Simple Starter plan, with unlimited talk/text, 500MB of data, no overage charges, and no annual contract.
Next up was “Operation Tablet Freedom” which offers a 4G LTE tablet (iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, and the Nexus 7) at the Wi-Fi price, which is usually about $130 less than the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, and free data through the rest of 2014. Here's the company's pricing chart:
Wrapping up the trilogy of announcements was the elimination of overage charges for every T-Mobile customer, and an urging of other carriers to do the same. In fact, CEO John Legere started a petition to help amplify his urging. Here’s what Mr. Legere had to say about the Uncarrier philosophy:
Over the past year, my Uncarrier team and I have worked relentlessly, tearing up the old rules and restrictions and solving pain point after pain point, so that American consumers can finally enjoy all of the benefits that mobile technologies are capable of. Not just what the old school carriers decide for them.
Much like hearing that a cable company might do something that benefits me instead of them, I was kind of suspicious of what this could really be about, until I saw that T-Mobile is in fourth place in the US carrier race, so this Doing Crazy Stuff That Might Even Benefit Consumers running about makes a little more sense. Honestly I hope it’s working, but T-Mobile isn’t announcing their latest numbers until May 1, so we still have another couple of weeks to wait and see how this plan worked out for their previous quarter.
I think this all started with the subsidy pricing conversation, when T-Mobile started offering hardware as a separate line item on the bill, so when you had “paid off” your phone, your bill went down a little. Ever notice that on the other carriers, they say you have to agree to a two-year contract because of the subsidy on the phone, but after the two years are up, your bill doesn’t get any cheaper? I’m sorry if that hadn’t occurred to you, because once I saw it I couldn’t un-see it and it irritates me that they get away with it.
I do a podcast with TMO's own Adam Christianson and some folks from the UK. Whenever mobile carrier discussions happen, it seems like the UK has at least an uneasy truce between carriers and customers, while here it’s still mostly open hostility. Nobody I have ever spoken to says they have a good carrier, just one that is mostly reliable or they don’t have problems that require calling customer service, or my favorite answer, “I don’t know if they are good at helping me, when my phone doesn’t work I just call you!”
What Mr. Legere is doing is very interesting, and I hope it’s a true belief that he can make the lives of US mobile subscribers a tiny bit better, and not just a “what have we got to lose?” stance, because it’s kind of working on me. I’m with AT&T because they can have my $30 unlimited data when they pry it from my cold dead hands, precisely because of overage charges. If T-Mobile can give me unlimited data for a reasonable price and offer transparency on phone subsidies, this looks like a really appealing choice to me.