About seven months ago, I published a wishlist for T-Mobile’s UNcarrier phase 3. It turns out that one of my predictions was right: I wished for more reasonable international roaming rates, and T-Mobile delivered by announcing free international data roaming, free texting abroad, and flat-rate $0.20/minute calling. I also asked for the elimination of EDGE/GPRS-only coverage areas, and while this wasn’t announced in phase 3 or phase 4 of UNcarrier, T-Mobile eventually did say that plans to accomplish this were in the works – and that it should be largely done by 2015.
I’m going to go ahead and claim a 50% success rate, since my other two predictions haven’t yet panned out. (Those were a WiFi calling app available for non-branded phones, like the Nexus series or the iPhone, and wrapping all taxes and fees into the rate plans.)
Since the last UNcarrier announcement, T-Mobile has had a couple new developments that haven’t been so popular. These include raising the entry point for unlimited data by an extra $10, and eliminating employer and association discounts for everyone except government and military employees. Admittedly, this stings a little bit – but T-Mobile has to pay for all those network upgrades somehow, right?
Still, consumers don’t always see the big picture, so T-Mobile has got to do something to ease the burden a little bit. And we know that another UNcarrier move is on the way, given this tweet from T-Mobile’s Chief Marketing Officer:
— Mike Sievert (@SievertMike) March 26, 2014
So what could UNcarrier 5.0 be all about?
Remember, T-Mobile’s focus is on eliminating customer pain points, and one of the last remaining headaches that customers have to deal with is taxes and fees. No one likes being told that they’ll pay a certain price each month, only to discover they’ll be paying $15 more than that every month. I still think it’s possible that T-Mobile might decide to roll all taxes and fees into the rate plans, so people will know for sure exactly how much they’ll be paying each month, before they sign up.
Alternately, to be more transparent, T-Mobile might just choose to roll all of its required local and national telecom fees into its rate plans, and only charge customers a flat-rate sales tax on their plans. This means that people who are lucky enough to live in states without any sales tax will only pay the base rate for their plans each month, and everyone else will be able to calculate to the penny what they will pay. This is certainly more transparent and more consumer-friendly – it will also result in people paying less each month, but it will be less expensive for T-Mobile than corporate discounts. I think it’s a win-win.
Another pain point involves voice calling while abroad. While data and texting are now free, why do voice calls have to cost anything? Perhaps T-Mobile will either cut these rates down even more, or give people a small bucket of minutes to use while abroad each month. That would certainly eliminate many unexpected or undesired roaming charges while abroad, and wouldn’t be too expensive for T-Mobile to implement.
Third, I personally think it’s ridiculous that I can only use 50MB of roaming data if I travel a couple hours to a rural area in my home state of Illinois, but I can use unlimited data while climbing the Great Wall of China. I think T-mobile should offer unlimited domestic data roaming again, even if it is throttled to 2G speeds like its international roaming. Throttling data to 2G speeds will keep people from going too crazy while roaming, thus keeping expenses down, and T-Mobile again would not incur any huge extra expenses, since most people don’t roam a lot, anyway. It would at least bring me peace of mind when traveling.
Finally, I think T-Mobile is getting ready to announce Voice over LTE very soon – this will be especially important since some areas are going straight from EDGE to LTE coverage, with no HSPA+. VoLTE will allow people to continue using data and voice services simultaneously, and once most people are using VoLTE-capable devices, T-Mobile will finally begin to decommission its GPRS/EDGE network and use that spectrum for 4G.
What do you think T-Mobile has up its sleeves?