Despite roundly criticizing shared-data plans offered to consumers by market leaders AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), T-Mobile USA is making a concerted push to offer what it calls "data pooling and stackable voice" as part of its effort to attract enterprise customers.
T-Mobile has offered pooled, shared-data plans for businesses since August, though it did not publicly announce the offering at that time, said a spokeswoman for the operator. The plans are part of T-Mobile's effort to entice big-spending business customers to its network.
In an interview with FierceWireless, Frank Sickinger senior vice president of B2B at T-Mobile, said the company spent a good portion of the second half of 2012 upgrading its business platform capabilities, including adding support for pooled data plans. "If a company wants to sign up for 500 GB of data across 500 users, each of those users can be signed up on 1 GB plan but we would not charge any overage until the common pool is used up," he said. Sickinger said the goal is to reduce bill shock for CIOs and add more predictability to billing.
A shared-data offer for businesses appears to pit T-Mobile directly against Verizon Wireless, which in early January unveiled plans to offer shared data to its business users. Verizon's Share Everything Plan for Small Business gives companies up to 25 lines of pooled service. For businesses with more than 25 lines, Verizon announced its Nationwide for Business Talk and Talk & Text share plans. The plans allow businesses of any size to create their own shareable data allowances via a single account.
T-Mobile's offer of shared data to business users appears to be at odds with its posturing in the consumer market. When Verizon launched the first shared-data plans for consumers with multiple devices during June 2012, T-Mobile contended the plans would be punitive, costly and complex. "Before these plans were announced we said this approach would not deliver a better value to customers and would be complicated for families to manage. Now that we have the details, we're even more convinced," wrote Harry Thomas, T-Mobile's director of segment marketing, on a company blog back in June.
T-Mobile, in turn, switched from promoting tiered data plans to offering Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plans for its postpaid customers in September 2012. In January 2013, T-Mobile launched a no-contract unlimited data plan for $70 per month. The operator still does not offer any shared-data plans for consumers.
However, T-Mobile is apparently willing to pull out all the stops to make its mark in the business-to-business (B2B) market, even if that means offering pooled data to business accounts. Last week the carrier also confirmed to FierceWireless that it is offering enterprise subscribers up to $200 in credits per line to switch their service over to T-Mobile, depending on what business options they add to their accounts.
In a separate interview with Bloomberg, Sickinger said T-Mobile hopes to be the first U.S. operator out of the gate with the BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) Z10. T-Mobile should be able to deliver the Z10 to business customers about a week before retail sales start, he added. The carrier is shooting for a March Z10 launch.
T-Mobile currently has about 900 enterprise salespeople, and the operator intends to hire hundreds more in the coming months, Sickinger told Computerworld. The operator has improved its domestic service footprint and no longer charges extra for domestic roaming, which Sickinger said is helping T-Mobile attract business customers.
Almost one year ago, T-Mobile USA announced its network modernization initiative along with a new push into B2B sales aimed at the mid-market and large enterprise market. The operator expects its $4 billion investment in network modernization and LTE deployment will make its services robust enough to attract high-spending business customers, which have represented a large gap in the operator's user base.
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Article updated on Feb. 11, 2013, to provide more background on T-Mobile's shared-data offering for businesses.