T-Mobile introduced an Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan Aug. 21, answering the question of what's a carrier to do when it's the only tier-one player not expecting a new iPhone in the coming weeks.
The plan works as an add-on to T-Mobile's current plans: Unlimited 4G data can be added to an unlimited talk and text Value plan for $20 a month or to a single-line Classic plan with unlimited talk and text for $30, bringing total pricing to $69.99 and $89.99, respectively. A comparable plan from Sprint would cost $79.99 with 450 minutes or $109 for unlimited everything.
While T-Mobile, like Sprint, has stuck with unlimited data, long after AT&T and Verizon Wireless gave up on it-AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has said he regrets ever offering unlimited data-T-Mobile (unlike Sprint) has slowed down the speeds of data transmissions after users passed an agreed data allotment.
Beginning Sept. 5, current customers will be able to upgrade to the new plan, and new subscribers can purchase a smartphone to link to it or bring their own compatible smartphone to the deal.
T-Mobile has apparently decided the structure of its plan makes it different enough from Sprint's unlimited data plan as to be called an "industry first," as it described it in an Aug. 21 statement.
"Our bold move to be the only wireless carrier to offer an Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan reinforces our value leadership and capitalizes on the strength of our nationwide 4G network," said Kevin McLaughlin, T-Mobile's vice president of marketing.
While truly unlimited data may help to bring in, or retain, subscribers, it can't be great for T-Mobile's bottom line. But the carrier is in a tough spot lately, and while there's hope ahead, analysts aren't expecting any major change until 2013.
T-Mobile has a "network modernization" strategy under way that includes the build-out of a 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, which will finally make its technology compatible with the iPhone-a device whose absence has hobbled T-Mobile's ability to compete with its larger peers.
It's also currently "refarming" spectrum used for GSM for use instead with Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) 4G services.
"A first-quarter 2013 deployment of LTE and the refarm of the operator's GSM spectrum will provide sufficient network improvements that will help retain subscribers and slow revenue loss," Technology Business Research analyst Eric Costa wrote in an Aug. 9 report.
Until then, Costa added, "there is no end in sight, as T-Mobile will continue to lose subscribers due to the upcoming iPhone launch that the operator will miss out on."
Still, while T-Mobile is down on its luck-in June, Philipp Humm resigned as CEO, and parent company Deutsche Telekom is still on the hunt for a replacement-even pre-2013 it is not without potential.
Telecom industry veteran Sol Trujillo has been trying to raise money to purchase T-Mobile, according to an Aug. 10 Bloomberg report. An American businessman who over the course of his carrier has been the CEO of U.S. West, the Paris-based Orange and Australia's Telstra, Trujillo is reportedly finding it a challenge to raise the necessary capital. According to Bloomberg, the carrier could be valued at approximately $30 billion, mostly thanks to its mobile spectrum.