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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 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.


"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg














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