NEW YORK (CNET) – With Verizon Wireless and AT&T piling on more restrictions to their data plans, T-Mobile USA is going the opposite route with a new truly unlimited plan.
Starting September 5, T-Mobile will take a page out of Sprint Nextel’s playbook and offer a truly unlimited data plan — one without any caps, throttled connections, or overage charges. T-Mobile says that customer demand has driven the change, but the move comes after Verizon and AT&T have both moved away from unlimited plans and focused on capped shared data plans that have irked some consumers with their complicated options.
T-Mobile argues that the offering is superior to Sprint Nextel, which also offers a fully unlimited data plan, but lacks the same coverage for high-speed wireless services. “We think it’s counter-punch to every option that’s out there,” said Harry Thomas, director of segment marketing for T-Mobile.
T-Mobile is a distant fourth-place among the national carriers and needs every edge it can get to catch up. The company has seen its contract customers defect, either moving up and signing a contract with one of the other nationwide carriers, or moving down to one of the more affordable prepaid options.
Given the attention that data limits have gotten, T-Mobile could see some customers giving it a second look. Sprint has already said its unlimited plan has helped set it apart, particularly when paired with the iPhone. T-Mobile is one of the few carriers that doesn’t sell the iPhone, but it offers a micro-SIM card that allows consumers to bring unlocked iPhones from rivals.
The move to unlimited seems to fly in the face of the carrier’s rhetoric about capacity constraints — arguments it made when it was poised to be acquired by AT&T. But Thomas said T-Mobile is working to ensure there is enough capacity for its users. In addition to obtaining spectrum from AT&T as part of the break-up fee from the failed merger, the company is planning to swap spectrum with Verizon Wireless to improve coverage and is investing $4 billion in improving the network.
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