T-Mobile offers LTE-enabled tablets for same cost as Wi-Fi tablets

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is letting customers purchase LTE-enabled tablets for the same price as Wi-Fi models, and the carrier is also giving away 1 GB of free tablet data per month to voice customers who sign up for a tablet. The company's announcement is the second of three it is making this week to add momentum to its "uncarrier" message.

tmobile ipad air

T-Mobile subscribers can get the LTE-capable iPad Air for $499.

T-Mobile said its new tablet offer is available for any postpaid activation on a 1 GB or higher mobile Internet data planFor example, T-Mobile said customers can buy the LTE-enabled Apple iPad Air for just $499 (which is the same price as the Wi-Fi-only model and far below the previous $630 price for the LTE-enabled version). Similarly, customers can buy the LTE-capable Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 for $200, not the previous $312.

T-Mobile is essentially swallowing the cost of the LTE modem inside the tablets, which often adds $100 or more to the cost of a tablet over the Wi-Fi version. The result for T-Mobile could put more LTE-enabled tablets in its customers' hands--and those customers may then may opt to pay T-Mobile for monthly LTE connections.

Further, T-Mobile is also offering $10 off its most popular mobile Internet data plans starting April 12 through the end of 2014. The offering is available for new and existing customers. The carrier's 1 GB tablet plan is $20 per month, but customers already get a $10 discount when they also purchase a postpaid phone plan on the same account. So for voice customers, what that means is they can get up to 1 GB of LTE tablet data free every month through the end of the year. That will be on top of the 200 MB of free data tablet customers automatically get from T-Mobile as long as they keep their tablet active on T-Mobile's network.

Once customers have used all the high-speed data allotted on the data option, their data speed will automatically be slowed down to 2G web speeds for the remainder of their billing cycle.

After 2014, tablet customers can keep the offer starting at just $10 a month with voice service. T-Mobile also said that its voice customers who add the 1 GB tablet plan also qualify for the reduced prices on the tablets themselves.

"With this announcement, T-Mobile's launching a full-on assault against the restrictions and pain points that keep tablet owners from experiencing life beyond the Wi-Fi zone," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. "The Un-carrier is all about solving pain points, and today we're eliminating every reason to be stuck on an unconnected Wi-Fi-only tablet."

Taking a swipe at the corporate colors of Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Sprint (NYSE:S), Legere added: "There's no longer any need to limit the use of your tablet because you're intimidated by Big Blue, Bad Red or Bumbling Yellow."

T-Mobile isn't the only carrier looking to juice its tablet sales. Verizon has been offering 1 GB of extra data per month to customers who activate a tablet on the carrier's new "More Everything" shared data plans. Verizon said its offer of the extra 1 GB of data will remain available to customers as long as the tablet is active on More Everything plans at or above 1 GB. It costs $10 per month to keep a tablet on the carrier's More Everything plan. The offer was introduced in late March and Verizon has not set an end date for it.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, T-Mobile had 69,000 mobile broadband branded postpaid net additions, primarily composed of tablets, compared to just 5,000 in the third quarter of 2013. Overall, in the fourth quarter tablets comprised a sliver of T-Mobile's 1.6 million net subscriber additions.

The tablet offer comes a day after T-Mobile unveiled a new entry-level plan called its "Simple Starter" plan, which includes unlimited voice, texting and 500 MB of LTE data for $40 per month. Once a user reaches the 500 MB of high-speed data, the service is suspended, and customers would need to buy either a 1-day on-network data pass of 500 MB for $5 or a 7-day on-network data pass of1 GB for $10.

In the fourth quarter, tablet activations made up a significant portion of most Tier 1 carriers' subscriber additions.

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