T-Mobile Zeros In on Tablets

For its next trick, T-Mobile is offering 200MB of LTE data a month at no extra charge for new tablets connected to its network.

T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere held a Twitter "press conference" Wednesday to reveal its latest "uncarrier" move, offering tablets to new and existing customers for no upfront payment from November 1 onwards (for an unspecified period) and a monthly payment that ranges from $16 to $26, depending on the device.

Initial tablets available will include the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Nexus 7 and the latest Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad Mini and Air. (See Google's Nexus 7 to Traverse US LTE Networks and Apple's iPad Air Adds More LTE, But at a Price.)

What does 200MB of 4G LTE data get you? T-Mobile says that means about 800 Instagram photos, more than 2,500 emails, or 200 minutes of streaming music.

Users will be able to get $5 daily passes to top up wireless data with an extra 500MB. Weekly passes start at $10 for 1GB of data.

For T-Mobile voice customers, tablet plans start at $10 a month for unlimited data, including 500MB of 4G LTE data each month. After the LTE cap is hit, users go on the 3G HSPA+ network.

Legere was questioned on the conference if the new iPads will work across all of T-Mobile's networks. "If there's something that says that the new iPads don't work with our network we'll get it corrected -- these devices were built with our networks in mind," he said.

Legere also insisted that the free data provision will be "good for the life of the device."

The data doesn't appear to be entirely free for the Nexus 7. The Google tablet with WiFi and LTE onboard retails for $349, while the payments of $16 per month for 2 years add up to $384 overall.

The 16GB iPad Mini with Retina display, however, retails at $529. So the overall payment of $528 to T-Mobile at $22 a month over 24 months doesn't appear to take any premium.

Finally, T-Mobile is offering a trade-in program for new and existing customer's current tablets. the operator will take in WiFi-only tablets as well as cellular models.

Why this matters
T-Mobile CEO Legere loves to take a poke at rival AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) when he can. T-Mobile launched an ad with the tablet campaign contrasting its "free data" with the "un-free data" offered with AT&T tablets. Tablets were one of the sources of subscriber additions for AT&T in the previous quarter. (See AT&T's Device Mix Shifts Away From Postpaid.)

Indeed, Wednesday evening, AT&T emailed Light Reading with its latest offer in tablet-dom. "Anyone wanting a 2-year commitment on a tablet data plan can take $100 off the purchase of a tablet from us," a spokesman for the company wrote. Users can add a tablet to an AT&T Mobile Share plan from $10 a month.

Related posts:

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

Sign In