T-Mobile historically hasn’t been real aggressive in going after the enterprise and government sectors, but it’s doing so now, taking advantage of its 5G network and work-from-home scenarios tied to the pandemic.
The Bellevue, Washington-based operator on Thursday unveiled T-Mobile WFX, three solutions designed to help enterprises meet their communications needs. It includes T-Mobile Enterprise Unlimited and T-Mobile Home Office Internet, as well as T-Mobile Collaborate, which is a suite of mobile-first, cloud-based tools for businesses.
The “un-carrier” points out that nine out of 10 U.S. enterprises are planning for a future where employees work remotely at least three days a week, and true to form, it says the thing that stands in their way is the “stranglehold” that AT&T and Verizon have on the enterprise.
“The old carriers are still using their 91% market share to feed business and government a very expensive starvation diet of old technologies, old plans and hidden fees,” said Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for Business, in a prepared statement. “With T-Mobile WFX a 5G network that is faster and covers more area than AT&T and Verizon, we’re on a mission to loosen the carriers’ death grip on enterprise customers, so we’re bringing that same disruptive, customer-first approach that made the Un-carrier the fastest-growing, most-loved consumer wireless company over the past seven years and counting.”
In a pre-recorded webcast, T-Mobile highlighted some of the problems work-from-home employees have been experiencing over the past year due to the pandemic: buffering, jitter, dropped calls, frozen screens and disappearing video. It’s not suggesting that consumers drop their cable or other internet connections at home, but says T-Mobile Home Office Internet delivers a separate, high-security connection for employees working from home that can solve their problems.
A spokesperson confirmed that Home Office Internet filters non-business content, so employees presumably won’t be zoning out on Netflix or gaming when they’re supposed to be working. A dedicated router that prioritizes access to employee devices and filters non-business content means employees can stay productive while the rest of the household can stream, study, game and more using personal Wi-Fi without disrupting work, according to T-Mobile.
Impact on competition
“This gives T-Mobile a very competitive offer,” said Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics. “This will eat into the competition, without a doubt.”
The biggest dagger will be aimed at Verizon because its enterprise growth has carried the organization for several quarters by punching double or triple over its share of the business, he noted. The business segment regularly brought in a third to half of the net adds. That points to the strength of its business group, and this goes right after that segment, Entner said.
While a truly "unlimited" plan is up for debate given network prioritization practices, the value of an "unlimited" plan is greater for smaller businesses than large enterprises because it’s harder to predict data usage at the smaller companies, where data usage can fluctuate wildly, Entner said. Research also shows that people are willing to pay a premium for unlimited plans so they don’t have to worry about getting slammed with overage charges.
Stepping back, one can see a pattern here. T-Mobile recently launched a plan targeting the 55-and-older segment. Last year, it launched an unlimited plan tailored for first responder agencies, a segment dominated by Verizon and more recently, challenged by AT&T through FirstNet. These are segments where T-Mobile historically didn’t play, and now it wants to be the life of the party.
“For T-Mobile, it’s all upside. For the others, it’s all downside,” because either they lose the customer or they have to adjust pricing. “For T-Mobile, anything is better than zero,” Entner said.
Because T-Mobile picked up vast 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings in the Sprint merger and it’s putting 5G radios out there to take advantage of it, the company is confident enough to make these kinds of offers, similar to the Max plans it introduced last month.
T-Mobile will offer its Home Office Internet to a coverage area of more than 60 million households at launch and plans to cover more than 90 million households by 2025.
T-Mobile says 1 in 3 people surveyed don’t see 5G having much of an impact on their personal lives because carrier marketing focuses on a “futuristic fantasyland” that few will ever experience and even fewer could access on its rivals’ networks. It insists that it’s taking a different approach, with a focus on putting its 5G network to work solving “the very real problems facing consumers and businesses at this very moment.”
T-Mobile Home Office Internet starts at $90 per line per month, and Enterprise Unlimited with T-Mobile Collaborate together start at $37per line per month. Companies can get T-Mobile Collaborate and unlimited talk, text, data with 5G access for a price that’s closer to what the competition charges for just the software or just the line, according to T-Mobile.
Not all of T-Mobile’s “big moves” have been blockbuster hits right off the bat. Soon after T-Mobile said it was throwing down the challenge to Verizon, AT&T and other carriers to step up their anti-robocalling games last year, Verizon and AT&T noted their own leadership in the fight. The FCC has been trying to tackle the robocall problem for years.
Later, when T-Mobile launched TVision, it quickly found itself in hot water with programmers. As FierceVideo reported, Discovery, ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal were all concerned with how T-Mobile was packaging and selling channels, including the $10 per month Vibe service, which focuses largely on general entertainment cable channels.