T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is launching a program that will let its customers roll over their unused data usage from month to month. The program, which the carrier calls "Data Stash," will be available to new and existing T-Mobile subscribers on an eligible postpaid Simple Choice plan who have purchased a plan with at least 3 GB of LTE data for smartphones or at least 1 GB for tablets.
In addition, T-Mobile said it will give every customer with Data Stash 10 GB of LTE data for free. T-Mobile said that customers' data won't start carrying over until after the free 10 GB runs out. The free 10 GB is available until Dec. 31 2015. The company said it is looking to bring the feature to prepaid customers soon
T-Mobile said customers will lose their unused data after one year from when it is deposited into their Data Stash.
Although T-Mobile is positioning the rollover data move as one of its signature "uncarrier" announcements ("uncarrier 8.0 to be precise), the rollover concept is not new. Indeed, just last month regional carrier C Spire Wireless announced it would bring back the rollover concept and apply it to unused data instead of voice minutes. Specifically, C Spire will let customers carry over unused data to the next month.
AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) originally came up with the concept of rollover minutes in 2007 when it let customers carry unused voice minutes from month to month. The company has since discontinued its rollover voice plans.
In an interview with David Pogue of Yahoo! News, Legere noted that this year on Twitter, customers asked their carriers more than 40,000 times to create a program to roll data forward. Legere said the move is "arguably the biggest thing we've ever done since uncarrier 1.0."
"The magnitude of this issue, David, is unbelievable," he told Pogue.
Legere said last year AT&T, Verizon and Sprint charged more than $1.5 billion in overage penalties on data. The only thing stopping T-Mobile's competitors from getting rid of overage fees is "their greed and their business structure," he said.
"We are the uncarrier," he said. "We are undoing the things that they do." Overage penalties are a scare tactic, Legere said, intended to get customers to buy more data than they will use. "In what other industry do you have to decide ahead of time how much you need and then you're penalized either way?"
T-Mobile's competitors would be quick to point out that customers can use data calculators to see how much different apps and activities eat up in terms of data usage. They also provide alerts to customers when they have crossed specific thresholds in their monthly data allotment.
On a conference call with reporters after the interview, Legere said 46 percent of consumers purchase bigger data buckets than they need. Legere and T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert said that according to data from surveys taken by Nielsen and the NPD Group, on average U.S. wireless customers leave 3 GB of data at the end of every month unused. However, they did not say how much data, on average, T-Mobile customers leave unused each month. Sievert said that amounts to $50 billion in revenue each year.
During the interview, Legere said that T-Mobile will likely rack up 8 million net wireless customer additions in 2014, which would imply total fourth-quarter net subscriber additions of around 2.9 million customers.
Legere also disclosed that T-Mobile now covers 260 million POPs with LTE, beating its year-end coverage goal by around two weeks. He noted that T-Mobile has increased its LTE coverage by 10 million POPs in the past 60 days.
T-Mobile has pledged to expand its LTE coverage to 280 million by mid-2015. And, by using its 700 MHz A-Block spectrum, the company expects to hit the 300 million covered POP mark by the end of 2015. T-Mobile announced its first cities with 700 MHz deployments that have gone live, in Cleveland; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said on the conference call that T-Mobile is expanding both inbuilding coverage and its general geographic footprint via the 700 MHz deployments, and that T-Mobile already supports five devices that can access the spectrum band, with more to come in 2015.
- see this release
- see this T-Mobile page
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Correction, Dec. 16, 2014: This article incorrectly stated that C Spire launched rolling data plans in December. The company launched such plans in November 2014.