T-Mobile's latest "Un-carrier" move is to let potential subscribers test-drive an Apple iPhone 5S, completely free, for one week.
Just sign up online with a credit card and an activated, fully charged 5S will arrive in the mail, offering access to unlimited data, talking and texting, plus 3GB of Mobile HotSpot service. When the week is up, either keep the phone, in which case your card will be charged, or drop it off at a T-Mobile store, no strings attached.
The offer will become available Monday, June 23.
T-Mobile's expectation is that those unacquainted with its network—or maybe, those who knew its old network—will be blown away by its present performance. During the first year of the offer, it expects a least 1 million people to sign up.
"Remorse rates" in the wireless industry run high, said CTO Neville Ray. According to a CivicScience poll, 46 percent of wireless customers say they've signed up for wireless service and then regretted it, while one in 10 subscribers have left their new carrier within the first month of trying it out.
"While the carriers ask you to buy blind, the Un-carrier gives you transparency," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. "Our network kicks [butt], and now people can experience for themselves what a data-strong network can do with T-Mobile Test Drive."
How fast is that?
T-Mobile said it has expanded Wideband LTE into 16 markets, giving its LTE devices a speed boost of up to 150M bps—a speed capable of downloading a 90-minute HD movie in less than three minutes, or an 11-song album in seven seconds.
“When I speak to businesses, there are still a few barriers to entry. People say, ‘I know you guys are building this great network, but I’m still a little nervous,’” Drew Kelton, executive vice president of B2B for T-Mobile, told eWEEK. Test Drive, he added, is a way to address that perception.
“The pace that we’ve been rolling out LTE is pretty much unheard of. … It’s pretty much one of the fastest LTE rollouts on record,” T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told eWEEK. “We’ll have 230 million pops covered in the coming weeks. Fifteen months ago, that number was zero. By the end of year, we’ll be at 250 million, and we’re working to take that number to our full organic number of 290 million in 2015.”
Further, said Ray, T-Mobile’s LTE network has a “breadth and depth that’s second to none.” It has more cell sites than Verizon or AT&T and a rich spectrum density.
“We have the fastest LTE network, period. … No one has challenged us since we announced that at CES. Plus, the consistency of our LTE network is second to none,” he continued.
With this confidence in its network, T-Mobile realized that offering test drives was a natural way to, as it were, put its money where its mouth is.
“This industry spends $6 billion a year putting up adverts and maps, but those maps don’t resonate. They’re just pretty colors, with me-too scenarios. We’re instead underwriting our messaging with some guarantees,” said Kelton. “We feel so confident that this will be compelling, we're going to unleash this everywhere. You can sign up with no conditions.”
Test Drive is officially "Un-Carrier 5.0." T-Mobile kicked off its “Un-carrier” strategy in early 2013, with that announcement that it was doing away with two-year contracts. It has since also offered monthly device financing, stopped charging for international data roaming fees, made it simpler to upgrade more frequently, began offering free data for life to LTE-enabled tablet users, and lowered the price of tablets, to encourage people to use them outside their homes’ WiFi network.
The numbers show that these strategies are working.
During the first quarter of this year, T-Mobile added more new customers than its three largest competitors combined. Consumers are also taking advantage of T-Mobile’s offer to pay early termination fees so they can make the switch. Businesses, however, have been more cautious.
Because of this, T-Mobile business customers will have 14 days to test-drive an iPhone 5S, the phones will be delivered via a concierge service, and afterward T-Mobile will sit down with them and talk about the results.
“We want them to really proactively use these things and put the network through its paces,” said Kelton. “This network is fit for business, and fit for data, and you don’t have to take Neville Ray’s word for it,” Kelton said. “Have a go. It’s all about the test drive. We think it’s really going to resonate so strongly with customers.”