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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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rofl
By atlmann10 on 7/20/2011 12:15:05 PM , Rating: 4
This crap is all so funny. No carrier meets the full specified 4G. I actually am about 2 month's into my T-Mobile account now. I was a Verizon customer for years, but it started burning if you get my drift. This is the funniest part people leaving t-mobile because AT&T (who has paid off every politician in my state including the Governor), is paying off all of Washington so the can buy out T-Mobile.

I actually got a T-Mobile account with a Sensation because of it. The way this is all going down means that when it goes through, and I am almost positive it will (you buy stuff with money, Congress, the Senate and all state legislatures were bought years ago, now companies just trade to the highest bidder) so it will happen. However; they (A T&T), will then have to reimburse you or give you a phone of the same level when you signed your contract, that also works on there signal's, and or let you dissolve your contract.

So basically signing a T-Mobile contract means my 2 year agreement is null and void at that time. Which also means if I don't like whatever smartphone there willing to give me to stay, well then I can just leave with no penalty. That is fine with me.

Meanwhile on the data contract the 200Mb's is only $10, the 2gb is $20, and if I add a phone to it it will basically be $20 more, my minutes will double, and data is specifically 200MB, 2GB, or 5Gb (which is $30). As far as it goes most of my downloads I do through my computer, but they are generally very small in size. So I came nowhere near my 2Gb initial limit so I down graded to the 200Mb which I actually downloaded about a 3rd of.

So for about $90 I can have 2 smart phones with 500 minutes each of talk time (with free nights and weekends) 200Mb of data at 3.5G speeds, and then unlimited at 3G speeds, and unlimited messaging. No other carrier beats that not even Sprint. On top of that I will be able to get a new smartphone in less than 2 years (probably closer to one year from May when I signed the contract) for nothing or I can leave with no penalties.




RE: rofl
By MeesterNid on 7/20/2011 12:31:42 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly!


"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer














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