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T-Mobile is "choking" its customers unlimited data connections, ditching unlimited allowances for a new pricing scheme. Its prices beat AT&T, but come up short versus Sprint, who will soon be the only carrier with unlimited data.  (Source: FHM)
T-Mobile family plan is $30/month more than Sprint, single line is $20/month more, and lacks unlimited data

With an acquisition by AT&T, Inc (Tseemingly impending, many customers of Deutsche Telekom AG's (DTE) T-Mobile USA phone carrier are already jumping ship.  T-Mobile USA yesterday announced new pricing that may give some a bit of extra incentive to stay, while giving others all the more reason to jump ship.

I. The Cap

The bad news is that T-Mobile has officially killed its "unlimited" data plan.  In that regard T-Mobile is following in the footsteps of AT&T, who ditched unlimited data plans last June.  

Verizon Communications, Inc.'s (VZ), the nation's largest carrier (before the T-Mobile merger closes, at least) with 104+ million subscribers will also phase out its unlimited data plan this summer, and has already started capping data usage on its 4G LTE network.  Like T-Mobile, Verizon will pad this blow with new family options.

T-Mobile's new tiered data plan offers 200 MB for $15 USD/month or 2 GB for $20 USD/month.  T-Mobile's tier extends higher, though with a 5 GB per month allowance for $30 USD/month, or a 10 GB allowance for $60 USD/month.

Rather than imposing overage charges, T-Mobile is merely bumping the offender's connection down to 2G and letting them languish at slow data speeds until the billing quarter is over or they pay to upgrade their data plan.

To be fair, T-Mobile's "unlimited" data might not have been so unlimited after all.  The carrier was caught last August throttling its unlimited plan connections and sued in California court.  After the news broke, T-Mobile confessed that it indeed intended to throttle "unlimited" connections if they were used past 5 GB.

II. Family Plans

To soften the blow of killing unlimited data; T-Mobile is unveiling some pretty competitive family deals.  

Individual plans currently have tiered pricing for voice allowances of 500, 1,000, or unlimited minutes.  The new family plans will have voice allowances of 1,000, 2,000, or unlimited minutes.

Similarly, the individual plan offers unlimited texts for $10 USD/month; the family plan will offer unlimited texting for $20 USD/month.  Similarly, the data plans cost twice as much when shared on a family plan.

A family plan starts with 2 lines, but costs $10 USD/month to add more lines.  Up to 5 lines can be on a single family plan.

The results are a fairly competitive pricing scheme that narrowly beats AT&T in pricing (for example, family plan texting costs $30 USD/month on AT&T).  It still remains to be seen how the plan stacks up against Verizon's updated rates, which it plans to unveil this summer.

III. 4G Where Art Thou?

We've said it before and we'll say it again, no matter how much T-Mobile wishes it, its "4G" isn't true 4G.  Rather its a 3.5G tech (HSPA+) rebranded by clever marketers.

T-Mobile's HSPA+ network fails to deliver the full speeds promised by the HSPA+ specification, much as current true 4G wireless networks from Verizon and Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) do.  But as the base HSPA+ spec is significantly lower than the 4G spec, real world imperfect HSPA+ generally is slower than real world imperfect 4G (LTE, WiMAX).

T-Mobile's pricing certainly makes it more attractive than AT&T, who is also putting off the upgrade to true 4G, opting to rebrand its own HSPA+ as 4G as well.  But the plan may seem less attractive when Verizon unveils its own pricing on true 4G data.

IV. Sprint -- The Last Hope

All the market movement leaves Sprint as the last hope for unlimited smartphone data.  

Sprint is arguably the best deal on the market, offering unlimited talk, text, and data (+4G) for $99.99 USD/month.  

In many regions you'll pay at least $35 USD in local taxes and fees, so your real world phone bill with Sprint will end up at around $135 USD/month for a connection with 4G.  By contrast a non-4G, 10 GB capped connection, with fees will be around $155 USD/month on T-Mobile ($120 USD/month pre-fees).

T-Mobile's family plans also look even more miserable in the face of Sprint's.  At 2-line unlimited talk, text, and 10 GB data family plan without 4G will cost you $220 USD/month pre-fees on T-Mobile.  That same plan will cost you $190 USD/month, pre-fees on Sprint.

So Sprint’s plans give you unlimited data, true 4G access in some reasons, and cost $20 USD less for individual plans and $30 USD less for family plans.

But if you needed any more incentive to ditch T-Mobile, Sprint is offering $125 USD to customers who switch from a rival carrier.

All of this sounds somewhat like an ad or promotion, but it's just the plan facts -- Sprint is far and away the most affordable carrier and the only carrier to still be fighting the good fight with unlimited data.

Now there are a couple caveats -- in some regions Sprint's network isn't quite as strong as Verizon and AT&T (the same could be said of T-Mobile).  Note that in some areas the reverse is true, but nationwide AT&T and Verizon tend to be strongest in coverage.  Also Sprint's executive leadership has suggested that they may impose data caps at some point, though for now they're content to leave their connection uncapped.

Sprint current has only 51 million customers, far less than the 129.8 million that T-Mobile + AT&T have and 104 million on Verizon.  But it would seem likely that some customers at least who had stuck with T-Mobile for the free data may jump ship to Sprint.



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Write To Sprint
By gorehound on 5/24/2011 8:28:41 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe write to Sprint and tell them you will dump your smart phone carrier if they will promise to give you unlimited reasonably priced phone.
it would be great to dump the cap for a company who does not.




RE: Write To Sprint
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/24/2011 8:34:45 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Maybe write to Sprint and tell them you will dump your smart phone carrier if they will promise to give you unlimited reasonably priced phone.
it would be great to dump the cap for a company who does not.


Why write to them? They already to promise that in their plans.

The closing text was just referring to their LONG TERM plans... as in say, 5 years down the road. All the other carriers will all be non-unlimited by the summer.

I'm currently on Sprint and their phones are no more expensive than on Verizon (my former carrier) or AT&T/T-Mobile. I got the EVO for $200 IIRC, but that was the most cutting edge Android when I bought it at launch.

Some food for thought...
You'd save $845 USD over the course of a 2-year plan as a two-line family plan user by switching from T-Mobile to Sprint ($30/month*24+$125 switching incentive).

I'm more than happy to give Sprint free publicity as they've saved me a lot of money and allowed me to ditch Comcast via cheap tethering.


RE: Write To Sprint
By Dr of crap on 5/24/2011 9:08:22 AM , Rating: 2
I have had Sprint for many years. I also have nothing but good to say.
Our family has 4 phones through them. We can download whatever we want - no restrictions.

So when I read about these caps, I just wonder why no one checks everyone out before signing up with a restricted carrier.


RE: Write To Sprint
By mcnabney on 5/24/2011 9:51:04 AM , Rating: 2
Because Sprint doesn't work in very many places.

For example - one mile from their corporate HQ in Overland Park, KS - no signal.

Sure, they have places that work well, but like most things in life - you get what you pay for.


RE: Write To Sprint
By Dr of crap on 5/24/2011 10:22:31 AM , Rating: 1
Yea, I don't pay that much and get what I want.

Yea, I get what I want. Funny, huh.


RE: Write To Sprint
By bigboxes on 5/24/2011 5:35:39 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint works great in DFW. It even works great in Aspen. Not sure how Sprint ticked you off, but you sound like you work for Verizon, not an actual Sprint customer.


RE: Write To Sprint
By Wolff317 on 5/25/2011 1:34:33 PM , Rating: 2
WOW! I travel full time, I was with Sprint for 14years before they decided to treat new customers better than loyal ones (another topic). I now have Tmobile Phones and a Sprint Overdrive, which is seasonal standby most of the time (yet another Topic). One thing you all are missing is that Sprint is indeed, as they say, Unlimited on thier 4g. However during my travels I am hardly ever in a 4g area, for the other 94% of the time I am in 3g which is capped, and holy crap, dont go over then, by god (Trust me, watch two 1 hour episodes of your favorite TV show). All in all atleast T-Mobile IS NOT CHARGING FOR OVERAGES, they have made it AFFORDABLE. This is called Customer Service something Sprint has Lost. (BTW) I have yet to be in an area where I DONT have 4G with T-Mobile. Also T-Mobile treats New and Existing Customers EQUALLY.

As far as cost for services: Yes Sprint is cheaper, but once a customer you are locked in. Plus they make promises they cant keep and not just about unlimited this or thats either(another Topic). T-Mobile lets me adjust, per billing period, my plan so when that death in the family means i am going to be on the phone for hours that month I can go Unlimited or upto 3000 min that month and then drop back down to 750 the next. And hey, I still get to keep my Military Discount and I still dont have to sign a NEW two year agreement. And when I look like I am going to go over minutes or something, I called and THEY OFFERED to change so I wouldnt get billed overages.
Hmm, lets see, tethering with Sprint, (in Short) Had phone as a modem(PAM), free to start with it was feature on my Phone, then they decided to charge me $10 a month then $39. Then they changed types of plans one day, PAM quit working, come to find out it was NOW only offered to Business Customers, but I got charged for it anyway until I Finally got it removed 3 months later I got credited for the 2 months I paid not able to use it.
For those of you that dont understand how people can go over, its because the younger generation, torrents, have XBox Live, and watch TV on thier phones constantly, EVEN at work! This is measured the same way your home PC measures bytes uploaded and downloaded(click on view status of your connection on your computer, watch it fly).
If anyone from Sprint would like more details they can email me. (wolff317@yahoo.c om) or look up at Sprint Blogs, one statement turned into a big mountain. :) (BTW ALL major carriers will credit your bill to compensate for ETF at another company if you switch.)


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