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

Fewer than 1% of the carrier's Simple Global Plan customers opt to upgrade their data speeds when abroad, T-Mobile EVP says.

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

June 11, 2014

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

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

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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