When T-Mobile unveiled its latest T-Mobile for Business "Un-carrier 9.0" plans on March 18 in a glitzy announcement in New York City, the company didn't forget about its everyday consumers either.
While the company was handing out special low pricing for mobile service for small and midsize businesses across the United States, with rates starting at $16 per month per line, including 1GB of 4G LTE data, T-Mobile was also unveiling new programs aimed at consumers, starting with guaranteed rates forever and payments of up to $650 per line to buy out a new customer's existing smartphone payment plan from either Verizon Wireless or AT&T.
The latest T-Mobile offers, which the company says it hopes will continue to differentiate it as the Un-carrier in a marketplace of traditional mobile carriers that offer higher prices and fewer services, are part of the company's strategy to bring in new customers and keep them with T-Mobile for the long haul.
T-Mobile's colorful and frenetic CEO, John Legere, said that under its new "Un-contract" initiative, customers under T-Mobile's no-contract smartphone plans won't have to face any price increase for their services as long as they remain with the company. Only customers who have unlimited 4G LTE services will be exempt from that price guarantee forever, he said, adding that even those customers will, at least, lock in their rates for a minimum of two years. Legere said unlimited accounts will be reviewed at that time and it is possible that prices will be adjusted.
In T-Mobile's new "Carrier Freedom" initiative, customers coming to T-Mobile from Verizon or AT&T will be eligible to have all their outstanding phone and tablet payments paid up to $650 per line so that they can leave their previous carriers and switch services. T-Mobile will also continue to offer up to $350 in payments per line for new customers who switch to cover their early termination fees (ETFs) for unexpired contracts with Verizon or AT&T, said Legere.
"Right now, there are about 29 million Americans stuck on device payment plans" with Verizon and AT&T, said Legere. "The emails and the social [media communications] that I'm getting [from many consumers in the marketplace] are saying that 'we love what you are doing, but I'm stuck on a contract,'" he said. "So we are introducing carrier freedom to cover all outstanding phone payments and leases. So people are truly going to be carrier-free."
That same kind of thinking is what led to T-Mobile's new price guarantees, said Legere. "I hate contracts, you got that from me the day we met," he said. "When we got rid of contracts, it was the happiest day I ever had."
But for many consumers, price increases are as big a worry as contract lock-in, he said. Some 62 percent of consumers have had their rates raised by carriers or are nervous that it will happen in the future, he said. That's why T-Mobile announced its price guarantees, making all of its promotional and fixed rates permanent, he said.
"I'm going to sign a contract to you with my name on it that your rates may go down but they won't go up," said Legere. "If you're on a promotional rate, it just changed to permanent pricing. And consumers don't need to worry."
The changes aimed at consumers followed a host of business-aimed ventures that T-Mobile said it hopes will grow its services with millions of small and midsize businesses across the nation. About $83 billion in revenue industry-wide in the mobile market comes from serving business customers among the four largest carriers, said Legere. Some $72 billion of that is spent with the two largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, with about $6 billion going to Sprint and the remaining $3.8 billion going to T-Mobile. With that gap in mind, T-Mobile wants to now capture more of that market by offering mobile plans that the company hopes will attract new business customers and convince them to move over to T-Mobile.
"I think most of [that gap] is from a lack of focus," said Legere. "I think it could have a very big impact" if the company goes after it strongly. "We need it to be different, though."