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T-Mobile: 2G's Good Enough for Global Travel

Sarah Thomas

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Genband Perspectives -- A big gripe on T-Mobile's free international data roaming plans has been that they restrict users to 2G EDGE speeds, yet fewer than 1% of T-Mobile's business customers are opting to upgrade to higher speeds when abroad.

As part of its Uncarrier 3.0 reveal last fall, T-Mobile US Inc. announced it would eliminate oftentimes exorbitant roaming fees and allow free international 2G EDGE data, free texting, and calls at the flat rate of 20 cents per minute in 115 countries. For those who require higher speeds, the carrier offers Speed Passes for 3G HSPA+ network access (since it doesn't have 4G roaming agreements in place). The plans range from 100 MB for one day at $15 to a two-week, 500 MB pass for $50. (See Bills Don't Lie: T-Mobile Drops International Roaming Charges and AT&T LTE Roams to 13 More Countries.)

Addressing the audience here today, Drew Kelton, T-Mobile's executive vice president of B2B, admitted to getting a lot of pushback on the 2G roaming speeds, but he said fewer than 1% of the 2 million people who have used a Simple Global Plan have opted to upgrade to a higher-speed option.

"It tells us we should only pay for what we need," he said. For a lot of people, adequate speed to check emails and do quick web browsing appears to be sufficient.

A survey T-Mobile released last month found that, since the implementation of its new roaming strategy, its customers have called three times as much when abroad, texted seven times more often, and used 28 times more data than they did previously. What's more, 53% more of its customers now roam on cellular in supported countries than before it unveiled the plans.

Kelton also hinted that more enterprise-focused shakeups are planned from the operator, which has primarily targeted consumers with its marketing and pricing shakeups so far. T-Mobile is set to unveil the next iteration of Uncarrier on June 18 at an event in Seattle. (See CTIA: T-Mobile Takes 'Uncarrier' Attitude to Work and T-Mobile Adds More MDM to Its Business Case.)

The B2B man stressed that BYOD is here to stay, and he warned enterprises to "be with it or miss the boat." He also mentioned how crucial security is as a service offering, and he called on the industry to "create an enterprise model that minimizes the cost economics and mobilizes the workforce."

So what might that mean in terms of new uncarrier announcements from Magenta? Kelton said a compelling opportunity would be to have a single device with a virtualized app on top of it enabling multiple personalities and multiple phone numbers, similar to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Toggle. (See AT&T Readies Dual-Billing Toggle Update in Q1.)

T-Mobile could also create a new Business Elite plan with everything included to manage legacy platforms and integrated OTT, he suggested.

OTT "is an opportunity this industry needs to grasp wholeheartedly," he said, because tomorrow's CIO is today's 18-year-old. "They don't worry about the old Centrex world of Nortel switches. They think about OTT and web capabilities."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
6/25/2014 | 5:38:05 AM
Re: Roaming
2G will definitely be a good option for global travel this is because of its efficiency and the fact that it has made work simpler and easier for people to access. 2G will enable people to be able to access data anywhere that they are in the world. The people will be able to comfortably roam without any problem at all. It should be adopted in all apps that are used especially on android phones. This will definitely be a good investment in the future.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/12/2014 | 5:10:31 PM
Re: And for Domestic Travel, Too
I know this will be controversial, but the need for certain apps to have a decent data connection overseas, means there's a market for a toll free style sponsored data option for apps while roaming.

I'm not saying that this should apply to all apps, but a certain sub-segment of apps could benefit dramatically. For example if a bank or MC could reach out to the phone during an overseas transaction for authentication it would reduce fraud, and therefore jutify paying for the data usage required in a reverse model.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/12/2014 | 5:04:39 PM
What's the old saying, "you get what you pay for?"  2G is probably good for doing quick email along with texting and voice calling.  For business folks who want to work the same way they do when traveling abroad as they do domestically, they'll either need to upgrade to faster T-Mo plan or get something from a company more focused on delivering intl mobile services like Gigsky, Truphone, OneCell - there are several.

For the occasional traveler, T-Mo is a nice touch.  And yeah Tim, for those using the apps like you want to use when abroad, then again, an international data plan for 3G or 4G access is probably best.
User Rank: Blogger
6/12/2014 | 4:51:32 PM
Re: T-mo's whatsapp
I'm pretty sure our CFO loves the T-Mobile roaming plan vs others. I switched over just before MWC, my phone bill was $10 more, it was around $300+ extra the year before. 
User Rank: Light Beer
6/12/2014 | 2:31:40 PM
Re: And for Domestic Travel, Too
Definitely no shortage of stimuli in Branson.

TMO is great in cities in terms of speed. On Shiloh's patio in CoMo, for example, I got 12.34/2.05 on HSPA a few weeks ago. But in-builing coverage often is spotty, which is puzzling because TMO is agressive in M2M, where solid indoor coverage often is critical.
User Rank: Light Beer
6/12/2014 | 1:35:45 PM
Re: And for Domestic Travel, Too
Yup. At least back then most apps were designed to work with 2.5G connections.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/12/2014 | 1:28:09 PM
Re: And for Domestic Travel, Too
@timkridel I see, so you lost the usual conveniences of mobile. It's a bit like traveling back to the state of technology several years ago.  
User Rank: Light Beer
6/12/2014 | 1:22:26 PM
Re: And for Domestic Travel, Too
I could make calls and text, but all of the apps that are useful on vacation -- Yelp, navigation, Facebook, etc. -- didn't have enough bandwidth to function well or at all. Once I had to drive back to the hotel so I could get Wi-Fi to get directions. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/12/2014 | 1:17:19 PM
Re: And for Domestic Travel, Too
@timkridel when you say nearly useless, do you mean that you couldn't even make calls, or that it couldn't do the things we expect of smartphones?
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/12/2014 | 12:22:56 AM
T-mo's whatsapp
Useful for texting. The number of internationally travelling customers could be low. T-mo must be trying to sign on more customers by sacrificing the lucrative roaming costs.
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