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T-Mobile spruces up international plans amid summer of 'revenge travel'

T-Mobile announced it will improve its international and domestic travel offerings in a bid to raise its revenues and gain more customers. The company's efforts come amid reports that Americans are traveling at much higher rates this year than in recent years, as COVID-19 travel restrictions ease. Experts have described the trend as "revenge travel."

"Screw you, COVID, I can travel and I'm going to," summarized Eric Hrubant, the owner of CIRE Travel, a luxury travel agency in New York City, in comments to NPR. For example, NPR cited data from travel insurance company Allianz Partners showing that American travel to Europe this year will jump 600% from 2021.

"We know everyone is eager to travel," echoed T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert in a release.

Thus, in its newest "uncarrier" announcement, T-Mobile said it would:

  • Increase data speeds available for free to international travelers. On its most expensive Magenta Max plan, T-Mobile said customers will receive 5GB of free, high-speed data each month at "up to 5G speeds" in the over 210 countries where it offers free international roaming. However, as Cnet noted, there are plenty of stipulations and details surrounding that data usage.
  • Offer free in-flight Wi-Fi on American, Alaska Airlines and Delta flights, with support for United Airlines coming at some unspecified point in the future.
  • Provide domestic travel discounts through new agreements with AAA, Shell and Priceline, mostly via its T-Mobile Tuesdays customer loyalty service. The operator is also launching a T-Mobile Travel service via a partnership with Rocket Travel, which would appear to sit alongside T-Mobile's other branded services such as banking and streaming video.

Broadly, T-Mobile's newest offerings are designed to attract new customers to the operator as well as to entice existing customers to upgrade to its most expensive Magenta Max plan, as Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart noted on Twitter.

"This was one of the better T-Mobile 'uncarrier' moves. It takes away worries of people and doesn't cost them that much. The free travel perks don't cost them a thing as at least the two partners they announced already do this without them," tweeted Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner of T-Mobile's new offerings. However, Entner added: "Only 37% of Americans have a passport... puts that international offer in perspective. It's a theoretical freedom for most people."

T-Mobile's newest announcements are just the latest in a long series of promotional and pricing moves by the nation's wireless network operators. For example, Dish Network this week launched low-cost 5G services across more than 100 US cities as it works to expand its network nationwide.

Also on Thursday, Verizon took aim at its cable competitors by discounting its LTE fixed wireless services and its Fios fiber services to $25 per month for customers who subscribe to its more expensive mobile service plans. Previously, the operator offered that discount only to its 5G fixed wireless customers.

Separately, UScellular announced that "beginning today, new and upgrade-eligible current customers can get any phone, any color, any size from any brand for free."

The pricing gyrations arrive as financial analysts continue to warn of increased competition in the US wireless industry, and how that might affect operators' ability to generate profits.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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