T-Mobile's Unlimited Plans Aim at the Big Two

T-Mobile's CTO talks about how the operator plans to bolster its network for an expected avalanche of new customers.

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

August 19, 2016

3 Min Read
T-Mobile's Unlimited Plans Aim at the Big Two

It's pretty clear that ebullient T-Mobile CEO John Legere is focused on taking it to AT&T and Verizon these days, and less concerned about the perception that the Magenta operator is in a fight for third place with Sprint.

On Thursday, T-Mobile US Inc. revealed that it is going unlimited from September 6 onwards in its latest "Un-Carrier" update. It will offer monthly customers unlimited data -- with video compression -- for $70 a month. Family plans will go unlimited at $40 per line. You can see more about the announcement here and learn about the Binge On video compression technology that has convinced T-Mobile it can go unlimited here.

T-Mobile has also stepped up its commitment to tablets. Customers can add a tablet to the unlimited plan for $20 a month.

Always willing to go after competitors in front of the press, Legere called AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) "dumb and dumber" repeatedly on a press and analyst call Thursday, while Sprint was simply dubbed the much more mellow "yellow."

On the call, Legere predicted that the move to a simple unlimited structure will bring an "avalanche" of new customers to T-Mobile and he is clearly hoping that the plans will attract subscribers currently on AT&T and Verizon.

"Two of the three other carriers have no desire to do this," boasted Legere.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray doubled down a little later on the call. "There is no way on earth that Verizon and AT&T, with their overcrowded networks, can do what we're doing," Ray stated.

Legere, meanwhile, even suggested on the call that Sprint and T-Mobile don't need to take customers out of "each other's hide," indicating that he's more focused on the big two operators.

Ironic then, that Sprint reacted almost instantly to T-Mobile move with $100 a month for two lines of unlimited.

Whatever happens with the jockeying for customers between the two, T-Mobile will need to add capacity to its LTE network if Legere's predictions of a flood of new customers come to pass.

T-Mobile execs couldn't talk directly about the ongoing 600MHz auction, as there is a quiet period while the bidding is in process. Legere, however, has predicted that T-Mobile will be a big winner in the low-band auction. (See T-Mobile CEO: We'll be a 600MHz Auction Winner and Get Ready! FCC 600MHz Auction Bidding Starts May 31.)

Even if that is the case, that doesn't mean that T-Mobile will get to use that spectrum lickety-split when the auction eventually ends. It takes time -- sometimes measured in years! -- for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to transfer the spectrum to the carrier, and then time for the operator to start offering services on the radio waves.

Although, T-Mobile and the FCC appear to have worked on making the process of going from winning spectrum to turning on 4G services on the air faster. Recall that T-Mobile won mid-band AWS-3 spectrum at the end of January 2015, paying $1.77 billion for the additional bandwidth. (See FCC's Monster Auction Ends at $45B in Bids.)

"We intend to be the first carrier here in the US to light up AWS-3," Ray said on the call Thursday. If that happens in 2016 that's a lot faster than the usual three- to five-year process of turning new spectrum up in the US.

Nonetheless, Ray says that in order to add capacity to the operator's 4G LTE network straightaway, T-Mobile has now started to deploy 3-band carrier aggregation (3CA) -- a technique of combining radio channels to boost capacity -- and 4x4 MIMO, multiple antenna arrays at the cellsites that can boost data rates to subscribers. (See Sprint Plots Ramped-Up LTE for more on 3CA.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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