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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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RE: Unlimited Data
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/24/2011 8:45:36 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Just as a matter of curiosity, who among the readership feels that an unlimited data plan is important to them, and what do they use it for?


Let me share my anecdotal tale. I used to own a Verizon modem capped at 5 GB. I use the internet a ton and stream Netflix, so I bumped up into my limit one month (at the time they didn't offer a higher tier). They sent me some sort of warning and my monthly bill doubled for that month.

This was somewhat of a surprise as the salespeople told me the connection was "unlimited" and I never read the fine print too closely, as I'm pretty busy.

After that I was pretty careful not to "overuse" (as ridiculous as that sounds) my tethering. But one month I had a report for grad school due and had to download a LARGE software package that was hosted via inter-university bittorrent.

Well apparently it was a pretty active period and the package overnight ate through something like 14 GB (I didn't imagine it would go this fast.... I don't do a lot of bittorrenting). At the end of the day, I had a usage of like 15 GB for the month.

I got my air card bill and its $4800 USD.

I fought and fought with Verizon, first trying to politely explain my situation then arguing that I'll seek legal representation. But Verizon clearly knew that getting a lawyer would cost me around ~$2k+.

So they offered a settlement for $2.5k .

I would have LOVED to sue the bastards, but I didn't want my credit score to be damaged and figured that with legal costs it'd be about the same anyways, so I settled, tapping into my savings.

The kicker? Several of the reps said that such overages were "not unusual" and that they deal with thousands of customers a month with similar bills.

I give T-Mobile credit for at least offering a responsible overage policy. I will NEVER go back to Verizon after how they screwed me over and personally recommend to all of my friends and loved ones to avoid them.

Post Verizon I temporarily got Comcast (the only cable internet provider in my area) then ditched them for Sprint's tethering and never looked back. I have nothing but good things to say about sprint.


RE: Unlimited Data
By FITCamaro on 5/24/2011 8:59:48 AM , Rating: 2
So because you knowingly went far over your allowed usage, you got screwed? Why not just download the software package AT SCHOOL? You could have sat in the library for an hour and downloaded it far faster than your air card did anyway. Even if you're doing school online, you could've gone to a place with free wifi to download it. I seriously doubt you stay at home all the time.

Sorry but I fail to see how what happened to you is in any way Verizon's fault. You knew there was a cap from previous experience.

Running bittorrent on an aircard is just asking for going over. Especially on what even you call a "LARGE" software package.


RE: Unlimited Data
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/24/2011 9:16:54 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Sorry but I fail to see how what happened to you is in any way Verizon's fault. You knew there was a cap from previous experience.

Running bittorrent on an aircard is just asking for going over. Especially on what even you call a "LARGE" software package.


True I admit I was to blame, but considering the amount I used, I don't think the overages charges were appropriate. I signed the dotted line though.

I'm all about the free market. If I by lunch at a place and the food tastes like garbage and I complain and the staff refuses to make amends, I'll happily pay the bill because I ordered the food in the first place. I just never will go back and will tell my friends not to go there.

To be perfectly clear, I had two problems here. One, I was lied to by store clerks who sold me my Air Card under the premise that it was unlimited data (which it was not) and secondly the overrage rate that VZN was charging per MB...

Again, I was at fault in both cases for signing on the dotted, line but that doesn't change the fact that VZN was more than happy to screw me over as a customer.

quote:
So because you knowingly went far over your allowed usage, you got screwed? Why not just download the software package AT SCHOOL?


Again, I don't use much bittorrent so I really had no way of knowing how much it would run. The software itself was around 1.5 GB, which would have been within my allowance, but the seeding/uploads was what killed me.

I couldn't just do this @ school as I would have had to camp out in the library or something as at the time I wasn't working in a research lab... I commute from home. Hence I d/l'ed it at home.

It seemed safe, I made an innocent mistake and Verizon seized the opportunity to screw me.

Fine and good, that's what happens if you sign the dotted line, but thank you I will never do business with you again due to how you treat customers.


RE: Unlimited Data
By Belard on 5/24/2011 9:56:41 AM , Rating: 4
1) Perhaps buying the software outright would have been cheaper?

2) I don't see a university back software package requiring BitTorrent, they have FTP and http for large files. What class/school would require their students to use torrents?

3) Over a typiical school Wifi, a 1.5GB file should have taken about 15 minutes or so to download. So what is more efficent, camping out at school for an extra 10 minutes or waiting over-night for a slow 3G download? You couldn't even use the software till it was done downloading.

Understanding technology and when to use it shouldn't be hard to learn.

My desktops are on a WIRED network. When I work on a friends or client computer, I use a wire. My notebooks and iPad as well as my Android phone use Wifi at home - sharing my $30 a month internet service.

I don't care for these data-caps, but I understand them... but they cause problems for legitimate uses... like using HULU, YouTube, etc. Capping helps to prevent heavy pirating - but it hurts everyone.

I like the idea of throttling the user down, rather than raping the customer.


RE: Unlimited Data
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/24/2011 10:15:40 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
1) Perhaps buying the software outright would have been cheaper?

Actually not. The package I was using licensing would have been more -- more than my eventual settlement at least. My use was somewhat of in a legal gray area, as the school offered licenses, but you could only use them in a select lab at limited hours so it was a really dumb situation.

The package I downloaded was a pretty outdated version of the software, but I could use it 24-7, which did the trick.

If I had the time I could have bought it on eBay perhaps (a used version), but the prof didn't give us our project till the last minute and had ridiculous expectations. Pretty much everyone in the class was forced to follow a similar route, given the time requirements and lack of software availability.

A couple had the good fortune of working in a lab with 24-hour access to the software, but I was not as fortunate at the time.

Most expensive 'A' I ever got...

Again, my net message is not that I made a good decision. It's that Verizon exploited the overage by charging me >40x the going data rate.

quote:
Over a typiical school Wifi, a 1.5GB file should have taken about 15 minutes or so to download. So what is more efficent, camping out at school for an extra 10 minutes or waiting over-night for a slow 3G download? You couldn't even use the software till it was done downloading.


My school at the time blocked bittorrent traffic and some proxies. I could perhaps have gotten around it, but again I don't use bittorrent almost ever so didn't really have much practitioner experience in such things. Honestly I didn't realize how high the upload to d/l ratio would creep so fast...

Again, though, my original point was not on the intracies of filesharing or grad school nonsense, which were obviously involved, but rather on the fact that Verizon was willing to charge a customer > 40x their standard rate for data overage.

In my opinion that is absolutely abusive.

But it's a free market. You can take your business elsewhere. And I did.


RE: Unlimited Data
By Belard on 5/25/2011 10:46:43 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
If I had the time I could have bought it on eBay perhaps (a used version), but the prof didn't give us our project till the last minute and had ridiculous expectations.


Then the students need to group together, and file a complaint about a software requirement with unrealistic expectations. If the ability for most students to get the school work done was to obtain illegally licensed software, then there is a SEVERE problem on the school's end.

Thats why they have student discounts, where you can buy a full version of MS-Office Pro for $50 (off the top of my head). When you sign up for a course, the listed required books / software is supposed to be available up front. No instructor has any business pulling such crap on students. Not talking about the "surprise - you got 2 days to do this" - but the fact that purchasing of expensive software is thrown in.

I use as much free software or even old software (as long as it works) to save money. I used office 2000 until recently, when clients upgraded to office 2010, they had no use for their Office2003 retails. :)

Office2003 hasn't really added anything other than slightly newer looking. I can't quite see the value of my needs to spend $115 for Office2010, even tho its a good product. I still use Photoshop 7 because it does everything I need. I played with CS5, very nice... and But I'll keep the $1500. :)

====
Most expensive "A" I heard of - some rich kids didn't want to spend time working on a video production (which is the course) so they spent $17,000 to pay a "PRO" to do it for them. I'd never hire them, they didn't learn anything.


RE: Unlimited Data
By The Raven on 5/24/2011 10:16:51 AM , Rating: 2
Your right, torrents shouldn't be used on an internet connection </sarcasm>


RE: Unlimited Data
By The Raven on 5/24/2011 10:10:33 AM , Rating: 2
I would also add that though you were in the wrong (contractually speaking) it is irresponsible of them to basically give out thousands of dollars in credit automatically for something that normally costs <$200.
Of course it depends on who you are and what your usage is, but this is approaching the irresponsibility of the banks who were giving out ninja loans lol.

So if I were Judge Judy, I'd say you were guilty as charged, but they are certifiably irresponsible and ill-natured and don't deserve a penny or your continued patronage.

If I were running the place and didn't want to be perceived as a vampire sucking money from my customers, I would automatically shut off the service once a certain limit was reached (could be set by the customer) but I should not give out so much money knowing that I might not be able to 1) collect all the money and 2) retain a typically good customer.


RE: Unlimited Data
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/24/2011 10:18:45 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
So if I were Judge Judy, I'd say you were guilty as charged, but they are certifiably irresponsible and ill-natured and don't deserve a penny or your continued patronage.

If I were running the place and didn't want to be perceived as a vampire sucking money from my customers, I would automatically shut off the service once a certain limit was reached (could be set by the customer) but I should not give out so much money knowing that I might not be able to 1) collect all the money and 2) retain a typically good customer.


Exactly, that's my point.

I owed Verizon that money and I paid them immediately once they offered me the settlement terms for my overage.

But I also quit that blood sucker as soon as I could.

Charging >40x your rate for overage data is abusive.

If it's REALLY that expensive you should just cut off customers' connections or offer special connections that allow for overages for select customers who would actually expect and be willing to pay for them.


RE: Unlimited Data
By MrBlastman on 5/24/2011 11:39:47 AM , Rating: 2
You're nice. I wouldn't have paid them. Instead, I would have told them to piss down a river. Yeah, it mighta been a hit on my credit, but, whatever. Sometimes, the principle of the thing is worth more than a great score. Besides, if you understand how credit works you could get the score back up without too much effort (though the blemish would stick around for several years).

Someone needs to stand up to practices like this. In no way is it fair nor equitable for a phone company to knowingly sell an unlimited plan for 100-200/month, then have another user go way over on their limited plan and bill them over 4 grand. It just doesn't make sense, both from a customer service standpoint and from a logical point of view.

To me, it smells more like greed than anything. It also to me looks like they'll bait the customers with pseudo-promises with the sly hope that they might slip up and tiptoe out of bounds--and when they do, fell a tree on them. Yes, I realize they are in business to make money, but, at some point any reasonable company should draw the line between fair practice and extortion.

So, in your case, meeting you somewhere around the unlimited price plan for that month and at most, double it would seem to be a fair penalty. Unfortunately, as you mention, it was your second offense and not your first so that might be some of the reason why they tried to suck you dry.

I'm waiting the day for a situation like this to make it up the judicial ladder for a ruling in a higher court. As we all know, it will NEVER see the hands of Congress in a way that will benefit us. All of their pockets have been stuffed with cash already by the telecoms. Our last bastion of hope here is due process through the courts.


RE: Unlimited Data
By The Raven on 5/24/2011 2:55:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You're nice. I wouldn't have paid them. Instead, I would have told them to piss down a river. Yeah, it mighta been a hit on my credit, but, whatever.

Yeah, anyway it won't matter after the Rapture <cue dramatic groundhog>!


RE: Unlimited Data
By cmdrdredd on 5/25/2011 12:53:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Charging >40x your rate for overage data is abusive. If it's REALLY that expensive you should just cut off customers' connections or offer special connections that allow for overages for select customers who would actually expect and be willing to pay for them.


They should be forced to stop this practice. If someone hits a cap, cut them off and offer them a package they can then buy that will give them more allotment. I never use my cell network all that much. I'm always near WiFi somewhere, hell even McDonalds has a WiFi network you can use. If not, I sure am not gonna try downloading a movie or something like that. I'll wait until I'm at home, nice and comfy on my home internet connection which is capped too (comcast). However, I've never gone above 80GB down and I average just about 4GB up. That's with 5 Computers, my iPad, occationally my Phone. My family never uses all that much.


RE: Unlimited Data
By rudy on 5/24/2011 9:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
The part where he can get 5GB for about $100 per month but some how 15GB costs $2500 is where it just does not make sense. This is why I hate the giant unlimited lie or set plans. They dont make any sense and the cost structure is completely rediculous. I am with spring because of unlimited and reasonable prices. The other thing is sprint often comes up with nice things liek the fair and flexible plan where going over would charge you more but not crazy amounts more. They used to let you bump up your minutes for $5 increments.


RE: Unlimited Data
By theapparition on 5/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: Unlimited Data
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/24/2011 9:23:28 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's not my fault. I didn't read the fine print. They should monitor me and control my usage. I'm a helpless wheenie who can't take responsibility for my own actions. Does that about sum up your rant?


Read my above response to fit.

I take full responsibility for the overrage. I made a stupid, but innocent mistake. I d/l'ed a 1.5 GB package, but due to the uploads, ended up accruing significant usage overnight (particularly surprising as my connection was typically slower than that...)

That said, Verizon was offering me 5 GB for $60 so if they were reasonable they would have billed me $180. Or let's say they wanted a premium -- they could have charged me $120 per extra 5 GB for a total of $300. I would have been frustrated, but would have paid and probably have stuck with them.

But trying to charge me 40x the rate I was normally paying is abusive.

Now I signed the contract so that's my fault, but my discovery of how eager they are to abuse customers has led me to take my business elsewhere. That's the free market (thank God for the free market, btw).

I'm simply telling my story to give some perspective on how Verizon screws people.

To borrow your gas analogy, let's say you paid $4 per gallon for 5 gallons of gas, walked away and then came back and realized your tank was full with 14 gallons. Only rather than $4 per gallon, the rate has now jumped to $192 per gallon. So your bill is $1,728 USD. Would you be upset?

Would you pay? You'd have to, or get a lawyer. But I'm guessing you wouldn't go back to that station...


RE: Unlimited Data
By DJ Brandon on 5/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: Unlimited Data
By wempa on 5/24/2011 12:51:24 PM , Rating: 2
This is my main concern with data limits. I want them to provide a way to cut me off and notify me when I have hit my limit. I don't want to have to keep checking my usage because you could very quickly hit that limit, regardless of what your previous usage for the month has been. I agree with you that the amount they charged you was absurd and I'd sure as hell leave them after that.


RE: Unlimited Data
By SilthDraeth on 5/24/2011 11:44:28 AM , Rating: 2
Except if you prepay for 5 gallons, the gas meter cuts you off at 5 gallons. You can't prepay for 5, then fill up a 100 gallon tank. Or even 14 in your scenario. Strawman argument is strawman.

I never did understand from a customer point of view, why banks allow you to overcharge on your debit, considering fund verification is done when you swipe your card... Or why cell phone companies let you go over your minutes. That is one advantage of the prepaid cell phone model. You pay for 5000 minutes, or 500 minutes, or 2gb of data, and if you hit that cap, by golly your service cuts off until you buy more!


"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein














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