As a carrier consultant, I play no favorites and tell it like I see it. Over the last several years, I've watched T-Mobile do some pretty amazing things. Abolishing contracts, termination fees, device subsidies, limited data plans, overage fees, and actually paying your fees and taxes was truly game changing. Previously, Sprint and T-Mobile were considered the "cheap" carriers that were battling for third place. AT&T and Verizon, or Dumb and Dumber, as fondly referred to by T-Mobile's John Legere, were in a class by themselves as far as coverage and data speeds. A funny thing happened since...
TM spent $435 million on Bandwidth last year. This year, they won the spectrum lottery with an $8 Billion FCC purchase of rare 650mHZ bandwidth. What is significant is this is lower than any previous bandwidth. The lower the Bandwidth, the better the signal penetrates concrete and underground structures. Good things are coming...
T-Mobile was also the only carrier that was truly global. You could get on an airplane and get off of it in over 140 countries without having to call your carrier to add an expensive bolt-on roaming package or worry about getting creamed for roaming charges. John Legere, T-Mobile's CEO, once called Bullshit on other carriers activation fees so I found it a bit surprising when T-Mobile began charging a "SIM Activation" Charge.
It didn't end there. When Verizon introduced their UNLIMITED plans, they one upped T-Mobile by including High Definition 1080P resolution, not the standard definition 480p T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T were peddling. To throw salt in the fresh wound, Verizon also gave 10GB of 4G LTE mobile HotSpot service for each Unlimited line. Earlier this year, T-Mobile decided to meet the competition and offered the same thing for a few months. In April, they quietly went back to the Standard definition sans the 10GB mobile hotspot. If you wanted that, it was $5 per line. Well last week, that $5 went to $10, a 100% price increase. If that wasn't bad enough, T-Mobile just announced they are also raising their international long distance and roaming costs. Their voice roaming costs in 140 countries, formerly $0.20 per minute now becomes $0.30 per minute. Surprisingly, this is not "Grandfatherable" so everyone will be affected.
What all of this means is T-Mobile is now successfully competing with Verizon. When was the last time you saw a Verizon commercial with that ridiculous map comparison? They can't do it anymore because coverage is very similar today. That being said, Verizon is still a tad more reliable and has wider coverage, especially in rural areas. With all of the recent T-Mobile price increases another funny thing happened. When you compare Apples with Apples, (with the exception of their amazing $100 Unlimited Plan for two), the only benefit T-Mobile is really offering is paying the taxes and fees. If you do the math, an Unlimited line with Verizon is $80. Once you add the TM bolt-on to get the 4G LTE HD and 10GB of Hotspot, their single user Unlimited plan is also $80. Two lines would be $120 to Verizon's $140. Four lines with Verizon is $180 however, whereas four lines with T-Mobile's new "deal" is actually $200, twenty dollars more.
My guess is once Big Red starts advertising that their four line family plan is actually cheaper than T-Mobile's, John Legere will need to do something very "Uncarrier-Like" again. I've already had multiple complaints from our global traveling clients who apparently were recently texted the bad news about international long distance and voice roaming charge increases and are very confused.
For the first quarter of 2017, my number one plan recommendation for 4 Unlimited lines was T-Mobile. Today, it's Verizon but I don't think this war is close to over.
Joel Saltzman has been a professional carrier consultant for Dr Wireless since 1997. He represents hundreds of IT companies and carriers providing unvarnished advice, solutions and support. If you have any questions or comments about any of the above, please let me know.
Joel Saltzman has over twenty years of wireless industry experience. He is currently CEO and Chief Wireless Analyst for Dr Wireless.