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T-Mobile USA will launch what it claims is the industry's first "truly unlimited, nationwide 4G data plan" on Sept. 5. The carrier's "Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data" plan will cost $20 per month when added to one of its postpaid "Value" voice and text plans (which do not include a smartphone subsidy) or $30 per month when added to one of its postpaid "Classic" voice and text plans (which do include subsidized smartphones).
T-Mobile's new unlimited data launch is notable considering the carrier previously offered unlimited data for smartphones for around $30 per month. During 2010 T-Mobile quietly phased out its unlimited smartphone service plan in favor of tiered data--a switch most other carriers introduced in order to prevent smartphone users from overloading 3G networks. Now, it appears that T-Mobile is comfortable enough with its customers' data usage trends and its network capacity to re-introduce unlimited data services.
The carrier said the unlimited data service will be available to both new and existing customers, and can be added to any of the carrier's voice and texting plans. In comparison, the new shared data plans from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) are only available to customers who sign up for unlimited calling and texting plans.
"We're confident we can support the [network] traffic these [unlimited] plans will generate," said Harry Thomas, director of marketing at T-Mobile. He said that, based on its customer research, T-Mobile expects the new unlimited plans to generate significant interest among consumers--a key action item for the nation's No. 4 wireless carrier, which reported losing a net 205,000 subscribers in the second quarter.
Interestingly, T-Mobile said the unlimited offering will not replace any of its current pricing plans. Customers will still be able to purchase T-Mobile's existing tiered data allotments, which range from $10 for 200 MB to $60 for 10 GB. (Customers who travel over their data allotment will have their data speeds slowed for the remainder of their billing cycle.)
According to Thomas, T-Mobile's new unlimited data plans are only available for smartphones. The plans are not available with prepaid rate plans nor are they available for other devices like tablets. Further, he said smartphone tethering will not be supported by the new unlimited plans. Customers who want tethering service should purchase one of T-Mobile's tiered data plans for smartphones. Thomas also said the unlimited plans will be subject to T-Mobile's existing fair use stipulations, in order to prevent customers from overloading T-Mobile's network.
Thomas confirmed the unlimited data plans would be available to all of the carrier's smartphone customers, including the 1 million or so unlocked iPhones that are currently registered on its network. T-Mobile recently embarked on a $4 billion network upgrade program with vendors Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks to launch LTE, and part of the upgrade will allow T-Mobile to offer HSPA speeds to iPhone users on its 1900 MHz spectrum.
Thomas said T-Mobile's new service is the only offering in the nation that is "truly unlimited, nationwide 4G data." He said Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) current unlimited 4G data plan, which runs over Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network and Sprint's own nascent LTE network, is only available in select markets, whereas T-Mobile's HSPA network stretches across 229 markets. Sprint does offer nationwide unlimited data service, though that is only available through the carrier's slower 3G CDMA EV-DO network. T-Mobile has dubbed its HSPA network as "4G," noting it provides speeds comparable to the LTE services from other carriers.
Thomas said T-Mobile will launch its new unlimited plans with a marketing campaign, though he declined to say how much the carrier would spend advertising the new offering.
- see this T-Mobile release
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