Print 33 comment(s) - last by Murst.. on Jul 22 at 6:26 PM

T-Mobile is upping its game, by dropping overage fees on its data plans. While technically capped for high-speed data, the plans are "unlimited" in the sense that you'll then only be dropped to a slower speed. The pricing on the plans is also very competitive.

Verizon offers the nation's worst priced plans, though it does offer true 4G and strong coverage at least. T-Mobile is much cheaper, but offers only pseudo-4G and has lesser coverage.  (Source: Flickr)
Carrier takes a gentler approach to the metered connection

Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA is currently a distant fourth place in subscribers (appr. 32.3 million), behind Verizon Wireless (VZ) (appr. 104m), AT&T Inc. (T) (appr. 98m), and Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) (appr. 51m).  However, T-Mobile still has some loyal fans who swear by it.

I. Unlimited Data* for Everyone! (*Restrictions Apply)

On Tuesday, the company unveiled [press release] its long-awaited family plans and dropped some good news for its fans -- it will be offering "unlimited" connections after all.  Okay, so there's a tiny bit of a catch here.  T-Mobile is adopting a unique approach.  It will offer capped quantities of high-speed data at prices outlined in our previous piece.  Once you exhaust your allotment, though, there are no overages -- you simply get bumped down to a slower data rate.

The plan is quite sporting and is really second only to Sprint, who claims ostensibly to offer fully unlimited high-speed data.

To recap, T-Mobile offers a broad range of data options -- 200 MB for $15 USD/month or 2 GB for $20 USD/month, 5 GB per month allowance for $30 USD/month, or a 10 GB allowance for $60 USD/month.

A 2-line family plan with unlimited voice and text starts at $100 USD/month for a 2 GB/month high-speed data allowance, with unlimited data, text, and voice.  The actual price is likely be around $130 USD/month before fees, as T-Mobile charges a $15 USD/month smart phone premium.

The new offerings make AT&T [1] and Verizon's data plans look even worse.  Verizon, the nation's largest carrier charges customers more than any other carrier for data, doesn't offer unlimited data plans, and offers them the less options when it comes to capped plans.

T-Mobile's "unlimited" data plans will also be available on tablets and wireless internet PC sticks.

II. The Great 4G Robbery -- More Marketing Baloney

It's hard to deny that T-Mobile is offering some great value to customers at these price points.  If there's one disappointing thing to the news, it's T-Mobile continued insistence at rebranding HSPA+ as "4G".  John Clelland, T-Mobile marketing SVP states, "T-Mobile is committed to making the always-on benefits of smartphones and tablets more accessible and worry-free for all Americans. Customers want to enjoy all that the mobile Web has to offer, but they don't want to pay for more than they need or worry about bill shock. Our incredible value comes from the combination of our nationwide 4G network, exceptional device portfolio and affordable plans that offer unlimited data access without overages."

Let's take a quick refresher on this issue.  Currently Verizon offers LTE -- a true 4G technology -- in a handful of cities.  Similarly, Sprint is offering WiMAX -- another true 4G technology -- in a handful of cities.  Meanwhile AT&T and T-Mobile, behind in their 3G technology deployment, have decided to focus on expanding their 3G coverage and rebranding an advanced 3G technology HSPA+ (often referred to as "3.5G") as "4G".

The common defense among AT&T and T-Mobile fans is that Sprint and Verizon haven't lived up to the data speeds promised in their respective technologies' 4G specs.  This is certainly fair -- they haven't -- but it overlooks that AT&T and T-Mobile aren't even living up to the lesser HSPA+ spec.  Overall, the net result is that no one is living up to spec., but Verizon and Sprint offer a bit faster connections where 4G coverage is available.  

A final note is that HSPA+ and 4G aren't just flexible terms that these carriers come up with.  They're specifications that were drafted by formal vendor-neutral bodies of professional engineers.  It's disappointing that AT&T and T-Mobile choose the path of continued skullduggery, trying to bamboozle clueless users into thinking 3G (or 3.5G, perhaps) is 4G.  One can only hope customers educate themselves, so as to understand their true options.

III. Forever Unlimited?

That issue aside, to quickly recap it appears T-Mobile has positioned itself in a virtual tie with Sprint as the best value for customers on the market.  Which is better depends on local coverage (3G/4G), how important high-speed data is for you, and how much data you use.  That leaves AT&T in second place, and Verizon in last, as generally the worst value on the market (though in a few regions its strong coverage trumps the cheaper plans).

The one looming questions is what will happen when and if the AT&T/T-Mobile merger gets federal approval.  AT&T could opt to preserve the brand and pricing -- or it could opt to force customers into its own less favorable offerings.  In that respect, T-Mobile customers' greatest enemy may be uncertainty.

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By Murst on 7/20/2011 11:11:25 AM , Rating: 2
Currently Verizon offers LTE -- a true 4G technology -- in a handful of cities

Sorry, but this is just wrong, especially in this context.

The initial 4G specification was supposed to be for networks that can support up to 1gb (for low mobility). LTE and WIMAX obviously do not fall into this category.

However, about half a year ago, the standard was changed as to allow LTE and WIMAX, as well as HSPA+, to be labeled 4G.

The t-mobile offering is absolutely no different in terms of their 4G specification than what verizon, sprint, or att are offering.

If you take the stance that HSPA+ is not true 4G, there there is nothing out there that should be considered "true" 4G, as no current networks support the initial requirements.

RE: Wrong
By killerroach on 7/20/11, Rating: 0
RE: Wrong
By Murst on 7/20/2011 1:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong. The standards have not been lowered to accommodate HSPA+, WiMAX, or LTE...

Why do you make up crap like that? If you don't know what you're talking about, at least try to prevent yourself from commenting.


ITU has determined that “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced. As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.

RE: Wrong
By Solandri on 7/20/2011 3:20:39 PM , Rating: 4
Once upon a time, the G in 3G, 4G, etc. stood for "generation". As in 3rd generation technology, 4th generation technology. A modification to 2G which resulted in better speed would be labeled 2.5G, whereas a complete overhaul to a new transmission technology would be 3G.

Assigning a Mbps requirement to 4G sounds just like the stupid sort of thing a committee would do to self-validate their importance. As a result, we have 4th generation wireless technologies which don't qualify as 4G, and 5th generation technologies which may not qualify either.

The generation of the technology should be labeled 3G, 4G, 5G, etc.
The speed of the technology should be given in Mbps.

One should not be able to infer Mbps from G or vice versa. Why do we have to make it so complicated? Just make the companies advertise that their data network speeds in Mbps instead of fighting over the definition of nG.

RE: Wrong
By theapparition on 7/21/2011 8:34:00 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, it's the old "What's in a name?". In the end, it's the results that matter. I'd take a computer with DDR2 memory that was twice as fast as a system with DDR3. And I'd take a phone with 3G performance if it was twice as fast as something labeled 4G.

Unfortunately, most consumers are too lazy to educate themselves, and hence this is why we have these discussions on pointless labeling.

On a related note, Patagonian Toothfish, while quite delicious, had a very difficult time selling at restaurants. Only when the name was changed to Chilean Sea Bass did it's popularity increase.

RE: Wrong
By Murst on 7/21/2011 11:03:30 AM , Rating: 2
The entire problem with your argument is what exactly defines a generation.

By your definition, since a "new" technology would define a new generation, WIMAX and LTE could never be considered the same "G" since they are different technologies, and hence would get a different "G" number.

Likewise, CMDA and GMS would be different generations, because they are different technologies.

However, for the consumer, that would become extremely confusing, especially since some technologies, even though having a higher "G" number, would actually be much slower.

So, basically, in your ideal world, the "G" would actually mean nothing. I think I prefer to have some random standards body set some minimum specs for each generation, so that at least it means something.

RE: Wrong
By Trisped on 7/22/2011 4:22:13 AM , Rating: 2
Murst, if everyone says you are wrong you should probably stop talking.

While G is often applied to a "technology" it isn't ways the case, here it is applying to the communication technology used by cell phone companies. While some of these technologies were CDMA and LTE, each one is used for a time by a company (usually exclusively for a while) before transitioning to a newer, better protocol. With each transition comes the new generation designation.

As far as the meaning of the "G" if you look back at the post you are replying to the author thought fully noted this and suggested that advertising the "G" is not very effective, something I think is expressed from the article we are posting on where the author thinks it is important to point out that HSPA+ would normally be considered 3.5G, not 4G.

While I would prefer to see Mbps as the advertised value, mobile data speeds are so variable from location to location it would be basically useless. Instead they focus on the generation number which tells me two things: first they have a new faulty network that will make me very angry if I use it. Second, there is a new standard coming out so my old hardware won't last much longer and if I buy new hardware and want it to last I will need to get support for this network.

As far as how to tell if something is a 3G, 3.5G, or a 4G I suggest using the guidelines for software versions (for example In the version numbering system HSPA+ would be a 3.5 because it is the same product, just updated. It is like buying MS Office 2010 and installing 14.0.4760.1000 (RTM) and then installing all the updates and now having version 14.0.6023.1000 (though HSPA+ is a much larger upgrade then just security patches hence the bigger number jump).

RE: Wrong
By Murst on 7/22/2011 6:26:23 PM , Rating: 2
Murst, if everyone says you are wrong you should probably stop talking.

What exactly are you talking about? The only guy who disagreed with my comments was downrated cause he was just plain wrong.

Nice try though. By the way, if you don't want to read my comments, just minimize them. I simply posted factual information about what constitutes 4G. You can disagree with facts, but it won't make you right. Now, you're certainly entitled to your opinion about whether something should or should not be, but it doesn't change how something IS.

RE: Wrong
By Sivar on 7/20/2011 12:34:59 PM , Rating: 2
3G, 4G, are all just terms made up by a committee. If the same committee renamed the old analog modem-speed network "5G", it would have about as much meaning.

What matters: The actual network performance on a real phone in your area.
Sometimes T-Mobile's network is faster than everyone else. Sometimes, like in my area's case, it is slower.

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