In the latest illustration of how carefully you need to watch what your wireless carrier is doing, T-Mobile used an event meant to promote its latest consumer-friendly move to quietly introduce a hike to the prices for most of its data plans. As The Cheat Sheet reported at the time, T-Mobile recently held its Uncarrier 10 event, the latest in its campaign to provide customer-friendy offers and services, from eliminating contracts to offering free international data. This time, the most prominent announcement at the event was the launch of Binge On, a plan that enables users to stream unlimited video from 24 apps without the usage counting toward their monthly data limit.
The Binge On program, and the Music Freedom feature it builds on, sound like great moves for consumers — at least if you ignore the uncomfortable net neutrality implications and the blatant demonstration that the data caps carriers have worked so hard to erect are artificial and completely unnecessary for network management. And the lie behind the industry’s data caps wasn’t the only unsavory revelation made at T-Mobile’s event.
Brian X. Chen reports for The New York Times that T-Mobile made so much noise about how it will allow subscribers to stream videos without burning through their data allotments that it was easy to overlook the fact that the carrier also raised the prices of many of its data plans. Some of those price increases are simple, like the one that affects the company’s unlimited data plan. That plan now costs $95, up from $80, a simple but significant increase.
T-Mobile obscured the price hike affecting other plans by increasing the size of its limited data plans. The data tiers now cost $50 for 2GB, $65 for 6GB, and $80 and for 10GB. In the past, these tiers cost $50 for 1GB, $60 for 3GB, and $70 for 5GB. The revised pricing and data allotment structure can be a good deal for some existing T-Mobile subscribers, who will be given the option to switch to the new plans.
In some cases, that switch would be a good one to make. For instance, if you’re currently paying $70 a month for 5GB of data, it would be beneficial to switch to the new 6GB plan that costs $65 per month. And if you’re currently paying $50 a month for 1GB, you can trade up to the new 2GB plan at no additional cost. However, staying at the same tier of data will cost you an extra $5 to go from 3GB to 6GB, and an extra $10 to go from 5GB to 10GB. T-Mobile’s proclamation that it increased the data with each of its tiers of service is true, but because it also raised prices, you should carefully evaluate how much more data, if any, you need, and how much more you’re willing to pay.
Chen notes that customers who are new to T-Mobile’s network may notice that the carrier’s new data plan options are, overall, priced higher than they were before. The average American wireless subscriber uses about 3GB of data per month, so most new subscribers will want to opt for the second tier, which offers a 6GB plan for $65 per month. You’ll be getting more data per dollar than you would with the $60 3GB plan — but you’re also paying a little bit extra to get more data than you’ll probably need.
While T-Mobile is largely responsible for getting consumers, even those who don’t use its network, better plans and lower prices, it doesn’t seem immune to following the industry tendency toward revising prices and restructuring plans in ways that usually work out better for the carrier than the consumer. AT&T, for instance, has restructured its data plans to offer more data, while quietly increasing prices.
T-Mobile’s price hike is just the latest development that may have you, like many other users, wondering whether you’re paying too much for service constrained by the artificial limitations and caps of your carrier’s network, it may be time to choose an alternative carrier. We have the lowdown on some of the best alternatives to the major carriers, ones that are likely to save you money each month, if you’re currently with T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon and are in the market for a new carrier.