T-Mobile USA will in January start allowing its customers to keep any unused data in their monthly data plans and roll it over for future use, giving customers more control and fuller potential use of the data allocations that they pay for each month.
The new feature, which T-Mobile is calling “data stash,” was unveiled Dec. 16 by the company in a Webcast event as part of its latest “Un-carrier 8.0” product unveilings. T-Mobile likes to call itself the “Un-carrier” because it says it does the things that traditional carriers won’t try.
New and existing customers, including individuals, families and businesses, will be eligible to roll over and stash their leftover monthly 4G LTE data allocations under postpaid Simple Choice Plans. To receive the free data rollover, customers must have a minimum 3GB data plan for their smartphones or a 1GB minimum plan for their tablets.
All customers will also get a free one-time 10GB extra data allotment for use in the first 12 months, as part of the package. After customers use up the free 10GB bonus data allotment, their accounts will begin accruing any leftover data from their monthly data plans.
“It’s your data; what you don’t use, you won’t lose” anymore, John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO, said during the Webcast. “This game is rigged by the big guys,” he said of competitors Verizon Wireless and AT&T, which continue to sell large monthly data plans that typically are not fully used by customers. “They get you in multiple ways.”
Out of some 231 million prepaid mobile users in the United States this year, about 120 million have data allocation caps on their services, but they are always guessing about how much of a data plan they truly need, said Legere. Out of those, some 13 million U.S. customers get hit with data cap overage penalties from their carriers, he said, which totaled some $1.5 billion in 2013. T-Mobile dumped overage charges for its customers this past April.
Those data charge penalties scare customers, said Legere, causing about 46 percent of consumers to pay for bigger data plans that they don’t ultimately use and don’t get to roll over for later use with other carriers.
“At the end of the month, they have 3GB left over, which is worth about $40 per person or about $480 a year,” which is being collected by other carriers even when they didn’t provide the services, he said.
“What we’re now allowing you to do is roll it over, to get a data stash,” he said. “And we’re giving every customer 10GB free, to get you going, and I think this is something that is going to shake up the industry.”
T-Mobile Unveils Data ‘Stash’ Rollover Program
The new T-Mobile data stash offer “eliminates a nonsensical charge” from carriers, said Legere. “The only thing stopping Verizon and AT&T from ending it, besides that $1.5 billion [in penalties that they collect] is their greed.”
Legere said he detests the system that T-Mobile competitors set up and that this is why the stash program is being unveiled. “In what other industry do you have to decide what you need ahead of time and then you are penalized either way?”
The monthly rolled-over data will remain in a customer’s account for 12 months, under the terms of the offer. There are no limits for how much leftover data that customers can accrue in their accounts.
The data stash idea came from listening to customers on social media sites such as Twitter, where some 40,000 recent Tweets were about customer wishes to be able to roll over their unused data each month, said Legere.
About 20 percent of T-Mobile’s customers already pay $80 per month for unlimited high-speed data plans and unlimited talk and text, so their accounts will not be affected by the new stash deal.
A 1GB data plan, which includes unlimited talk and text, is $50 a month but is not eligible for the data stash offer. The 3GB plan, which costs $60 a month, and the 5GB plan, which costs $70 per month, are eligible for the stash feature and also include unlimited text and talk. Those plans all allow customers to go over their data caps at reduced 2G speeds, without any overage charges.
So what’s this all mean for consumers and business users?
Despite T-Mobile’s big launch of its data stash offer, the rollover data feature may not be a huge differentiator for the company in the marketplace since it hasn’t charged data overage fees since April, Lynnette Luna, a consumer markets analyst with Current Analysis, told eWEEK in a Dec. 16 interview. “It pretty much continues to drive home their message that ‘AT&T and Verizon are punitive with their data and we’re not,'” said Luna. “They think it’s putting themselves up another competitive notch, but I don’t really see that.”