T-Mobile US today announced it would give its customers free shares in the company, and would use that effort to encourage customers to refer more people to the carrier to earn more shares. T-Mobile's stock was trading at around $43.56 per share immediately after the announcement.
The announcement of the program, Stock Up, was part of T-Mobile's Un-carrier 11 event, which the company streamed live through YouTube and other video platforms. The company has launched 10 Un-carrier promotions since March 2013, with varying degrees of success. Its initial effort, which ended two-year contracts in favor of equipment installment plans (EIPs), changed the mobile landscape in the U.S., forcing other major operators to follow suit.
T-Mobile said that under its new Stock Up program, customers must first download its new T-Mobile Tuesdays app to request their free share -- which is only available to each main account holder on the carrier's postpaid consumer plans (so it is not available to every member of a family plan, only the primary account holder of that plan). Customers will also need to sign up for a brokerage service to receive the share, which T-Mobile said would also not cost anything. Customers will be able to sell or transfer their shares for no additional cost (though T-Mobile executives said such transactions may not be free in the coming years since the carrier is covering those costs now).
Financially, T-Mobile said it initially is expecting to give away up to 1 million shares, though carrier executives said that figure is simply an initial guess at demand. T-Mobile will purchase shares through a third-party broker, LOYAL3, on the open market and then will distribute those shares to each eligible customer that registers to receive one.
Further, T-Mobile is leveraging its Stock Up program like a referral service: Each customer who gets another customer to sign up for T-Mobile service will receive an additional share, up to 100 shares per year. Customers who have been with T-Mobile for more than five years will receive two shares for each customer they recommend to the carrier.
"This is a real big deal," Legere said in his Un-carrier 11 live stream. "You now own the uncarrier revolution. … You're officially my boss."
Stock Up is a new take on referral programs in the wireless industry. For example, the T-Mobile MVNO Solavei operated a referral program that paid customers commissions who referred new customers to the service; Solavei shut down late last year.
Stock Up was one of three announcements T-Mobile trotted out during its 20-minute Un-carrier 11 event today. The carrier also announced it will offer free gifts and prizes (such as an expedition up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru) every week through its T-Mobile Tuesdays app. T-Mobile said it partnered with businesses including Gilt, Domino's, StubHub, Wendy's, Vudu, Fandango, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures, Lyft and more to provide customers with free gifts every week, as well as the option to win prizes. Legere said that this week customers who download the app will receive a free medium two-topping Domino's pizza, a free small Wendy's Frosty and a free movie rental from Vudu, Walmart's video on-demand service. That offer will be available every week to anyone paying for monthly service from T-Mobile (though it is not available to MetroPCS customers).
T-Mobile executives explained that, in some cases, T-Mobile will pay for those free prizes and in other cases T-Mobile's partners will pay for the expense. Legere declined to provide any more specifics on the financial details of that offering.
And this week, to promote the app, T-Mobile said its partner Fandango will offer a free movie ticket to the upcoming Warcraft movie.
The third element of T-Mobile's Un-carrier 11 announcement involves in-flight Wi-Fi. T-Mobile said it will provide a free hour of Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi on every Gogo-equipped domestic flight, for all T-Mobile customers.
The Un-carrier 11 announcements are part of T-Mobile's #GetThanked hashtag, which the carrier said is a "set of initiatives dedicated exclusively to thanking T-Mobile customers." The announcement comes just a few days after AT&T announced its own "thanks" loyalty program that promises to reward customers with movie tickets, advance access to concert tickets and other goodies. AT&T said the program would launch late this month and would thank subscribers with exclusive entertainment offerings such as two-for-one movie tickets on Tuesdays and pre-sale ticket offers from Live Nation, as well as special content for DirecTV subscribers on their TVs and phones.
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