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

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DanJones 10/24/2013 | 4:09:54 PM
Re: AT&T tablet plans I think Verizon's marketing message has been pretty consistent and will remain so. They've gone from saying they have the nation's largest and most reliable 3G network to the largest and most reliable 4G network.

Liz Greenberg 10/24/2013 | 3:44:42 PM
Re: AT&T tablet plans It is a required dynamic...the big boys need to be competitive with each other to retain customers and to grow. It will be interesting now to see if Verizon jumps in as well. I have searched to see if they have a day pass and it doesn't seem like it.  This could be a lot of fun in the future.
DanJones 10/24/2013 | 3:18:25 PM
AT&T tablet plans They started the day passes a week ago and they tweaked the plans again and offered a $100 off again last night. Tablets are becoming much more important to AT&T and they can't afford to lose "value-conscious" customers to T-Mobile. In a way that's the real dynamic that is at  play here. 
Liz Greenberg 10/24/2013 | 3:11:37 PM
Re: Oh yeah, Legere said this too: Dan...I actually didn't know that AT&T even offered this on the fly!  Very cool!  Now I know for the future.  I have avoided buying a 4G enabled tablet because I don't want to pay for services every month.  But now I know I can do it on the fly.  Nice.
DanJones 10/24/2013 | 3:00:41 PM
Re: Oh yeah, Legere said this too: Oh, I'm sure that's coming. Remember AT&T actually beat them out of the gate with the $5 passes as well


Here's how that works:



·         For $5, AT&T customers have access to 250MB for one day (no auto renew)

·         For $25, AT&T customers have access to 1GB for three months (no auto renew).


SESSION BASED ($14.99 and up)

These two session-based plans are in addition to the ability to add a tablet to an AT&T Mobile Share plan for just $10:

·         250 MB for 30 days for $14.99

·         3 GB for 30 days for $30

·         5 GB for 30 days for $50
Liz Greenberg 10/24/2013 | 2:55:09 PM
Re: Oh yeah, Legere said this too: I think that their pricing is reasonable.  I am really hoping that AT&T, Verizon and others feel the heat and follow suit!  It would be nice for TMo to offer even bigger bundle passes just in case somebody REALLY has a large video story to file at the last minute!
DanJones 10/24/2013 | 2:50:28 PM
Re: Oh yeah, Legere said this too: Well the way this works is 200MB "free" data, then you can re-up with $5 500MB and $10 1GB passes, I could see that being lower but that seems about as low as tablet data pricing goes right now, unless you know different. Seems like T-Mobile might have been watching some of that FreedomPop pricing tatics.
Liz Greenberg 10/24/2013 | 2:45:08 PM
Re: Oh yeah, Legere said this too: I agree Dan but I want to be able to buy it on the fly at reasonable pricing not at some gouge because I didn't pay for it every month for years...oh wait that is what they typically do to us anyway.  But seriously, if the carriers adopt methodologies to let you buy on the fly, folks will do it. It works for travelers worldwide all the time ( prices may be high in airports but at least usually close to reasonable).
DanJones 10/24/2013 | 2:30:10 PM
Re: Oh yeah, Legere said this too: I actually think daily or weekly passes are a pretty sensible additions. I guess it might be what I do but being able to buy connectivity when you need it seems useful to me.
Liz Greenberg 10/24/2013 | 2:16:28 PM
Re: Oh yeah, Legere said this too: Sarah...thanks for the clarification because I was thinking rarely and reading really!  But really, good deals, growing revenues and growing/retaining customers are not mutually exclusive as Dan said. The key is actually listening to your customers.  In the case of TMo they are sort of doing it but not really.  Customers usually choose the least obnoxious plan which is not necessarily what they want but the least evil to them.  I know that is how it works for me. I don't have a single plan that I like except for my internet plan which is NOT with any major carrier.  I always choose the plan that gives me closest to what I want without killing me!
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