T-Mobile, behind its outspoken CEO John Legere, has shaken up the industry through the “Uncarrier” initiative, a set of changes to its business aimed at attracting customers to its service and away from other carriers. It’s worked: T-Mobile signed up 2.3 million new customers, according to CNET, in the third quarter of 2015, nearly double that of market leader Verizon.
In honor of T-Mobile’s latest announcement, the 10th in a series of “Uncarrier” promotions, we take a look at how the company has been a thorn in the industry’s side from the first announcement.
Uncarrier 1.0: No contracts
The first of T-Mobile’s moves was to do away with cellular contracts. The move in March 2013 spurred the rest of the industry to dump them as well: All four major carriers now offer a similar option with Verizon going as far as getting rid of them altogether.
Uncarrier 2.0: No more wait to upgrade
Four months later in July of 2013, the company decided to do away with the two-year upgrade cycle, introducing “Jump!”. The program allows you to upgrade at any time, up to three times a year. To date it is the only company to do it so aggressively: Only Sprint comes close with its iPhone Forever program.
Uncarrier 3.0: International roaming for free
October 2013 brought another end to a practice that bilked international travelers out of tons of money: roaming fees. Now supported in over 145 countries, the company’s Simple Choice Global plan is the way to go. A word of caution though: Our own look at global calling plans from the four major carriers has found that Sprint’s plan is actually a better deal, even though it covers less territory.
Uncarrier 4.0: No more early termination fees
T-Mobile perhaps made its boldest move in January 2014 by announcing it would no longer charge early termination fees. In addition, it offered to pay up to $350 in early termination fees of other carriers in an effort to get more competitors’ customers to switch.
Uncarrier 5.0/6.0: Test drive and “Music Freedom”
June 2014 brought two more announcements, one allowing interested consumers to “test drive” the company’s network, and another called “Music Freedom,” which was far more disruptive.
Music Freedom allows customers to listen to streaming music from selected partners without the data usage being counted towards their monthly allotment. While it might not affect its unlimited data customers as much, the move no doubt made a lot of parents on capped family plans happy that their kids were no longer sucking up mounds of data.
Uncarrier 7.0: Wi-Fi calling debuts
T-Mobile became the first carrier to fully commit to the idea of Wi-Fi calling by launching the feature on compatible phones in September 2014. Sprint followed soon after, with AT&T announcing Wi-Fi calling support in October 2015. As of press time, Verizon was the only carrier not to offer the service.
Uncarrier 8.0: Keep your unused data
For those on data-capped plans, it’s frustrating to watch any unused data disappear at the end of the month, even though you’ve paid for it. T-Mobile ended that practice in December 2014, introducing a feature called “Data Stash.” Unused data rolls over for up to a year, similar to AT&T’s old rollover minutes plans. We’d be remiss, though, to not mention this has recently changed: Phone Area reports that Data Stash is now capped to 20GB of rollover data.
Uncarrier 9.0: Businesses get in on the act, carrier freedom debuts
Starting in March 2015, business plans became eligible for all of the Uncarrier features that were available to consumers. This is a big deal, as business phone contracts are some of the most lucrative for cellular providers, CNET argues. The rest of us weren’t left out in the cold though: T-Mobile announced it would now also pay outstanding device payments for phones — up to $650 per line, Digital Trends reports.
Uncarrier “X”: Unlimited video streaming
You’d figure for a milestone like the 10th announcement there would be something big, and T-Mobile certainly didn’t disappoint. Like Music Freedom before it, T-Mobile users can now stream unlimited amounts of video without it affecting their data allotments, or the fear of being throttled. Twenty-four video services are supported at launch, and the company will not charge any service to get added to the program. The plan was not without criticism though: The Verge’s T.C. Sottek said the company was “writing the manual on how to f**k up the internet,” claiming it poses problems from a net neutrality standpoint.
Where does T-Mobile go from here? It’s hard to say. The company, in just three short years, has completely turned the industry on its head, and left a lot of its competitors racing to catch up. That said, behind its bombastic (and often profanity-laden) CEO Legere, anything is possible.
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