T-Mobile US has launched an unlimited data plan, called T-Mobile One, at US $70.00 per month. For that price, customers receive unlimited calls, texts and LTE data. However, there are restrictions on video, which is limited to SD quality (480p), and hotspot use, which is limited to 2G speeds. To upgrade the video to HD, subscribers can pay another US $25.00 per month. T-Mobile said it will also impose a fair-use policy, identical to that on its other plans, whereby the 3 percent of customers who use the most data—currently over 26 GB per month—may see their connections throttled until the next billing month during times of high network demand or congestion. The new T-Mobile One offer is also available as a family plan, with the second line at US $50.00 a month and up to eight more at US $20.00 per month with automatic billing. Without direct debit, customers pay an extra US $5.00 per month. T-Mobile said the new One offer is expected to result in increased customer loyalty.
T-Mobile may claim that its One plan will bring about greater customer loyalty, but the signs are that many customers are not happy with the operator’s move—not to mention net-neutrality advocates. The new offer is part of T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier 12” campaign, which kicked off with a statement from CEO John Legere that “the era of the data plan is over.” T-Mobile has benefited in the past from bold, game-changing moves, and the current campaign’s assertion that the tiered data buckets and shared data that other operators rely on are outmoded is in that tradition. However, according to news reports, customers are weighing in on the internet to the effect that taking away options is not a good thing, and that the throttling, low-definition video, and 2G tethering are deal-breakers. Asking customers to pay more to remove these restrictions gives the lie to the “unlimited” moniker and weakens the selling point of low cost.
Whether or not the Uncarrier has gone too far this time remains, of course, to be seen, but as we have reported on numerous occasions, one of the most noticeable worldwide mobile trends is the predilection of consumers for choice and flexibility, a need which tiered offerings answer very directly. So by offering a one-size-fits-all solution, T-Mobile is bucking that trend, quite possibly to its disadvantage. Add to that the fact that this “unlimited” offer has serious limitations for many consumers—a very important group of consumers if one considers that video and music streaming are among the most in-demand and fastest-growing services—and it appears that T-Mobile One is entering the U.S. marketplace with some serious handicaps. On top of that, one must add into the mix the strong objections to the “fair-use” throttling policy which T-Mobile introduced with its “Binge On” option and continues with T-Mobile One and which the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group, is denouncing as discriminatory and anti-net-neutrality.