T-Mobile created a lot of buzz this week when it announced that it was rolling back an unlimited plan without data throttling. In the era of data cap and deprotimization, this seems like a pretty good deal – and it can be. But as always, T-Mobile has more in play here than just offering a better unlimited plan.
T-Mobile says that its new plan, Magenta Max, is truly unlimited. This includes 4K video streaming and high-speed data, without deputation, where all other “unlimited” schemes implement a slowdown after a user hits some threshold. T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Matt Stenf confirmed in a call The Reporter Door Tomorrow there are no strings attached to the deputation bit – this is all-you-can 5G data.
However there is a string to know about this. There is a 40GB cap on tethering, after which customers will get 3G data. But T-Mobile insists that there is no more fun business. For example, there is no limit on 4K video streaming, provided that the streaming service you are using provides.
This is notable, because according to the carriers, data deputation was imposed out of necessity to maintain network performance. Verizon relaunched the unlimited data plan in 2017, and soon after, it mimicked video quality limitations and data. In so many words, Verizon claimed that the move was necessary because the network could not handle the extra crowds of unlimited customers. It was not alone: throttling and low streaming video quality were standard practice at all major carriers at that point.
So now how can T-Mobile really offer unlimited data? According to the company, the difference is 5G. In particular, the mid-band frequency that T-Mobile uses for its 5G network has more data capacity than 4G and the narrow low-band frequency is more robust than Verizon and AT&T, Rely for its nationwide 5G coverage.
But let’s recall why T-Mobile has all the sweet, sweet mid-band spectrum: Sprint. The acquisition gave Sprint’s network T-Mobile access, but it effectively cut wireless carrier options from four to three in the US. A federal judge allowed T-Mobile to proceed with the deal, but under certain conditions, it would help boost competition and (hopefully) consumer choice in other ways.
T-Mobile’s follow-through has been a mixed bag on those terms. It was as promised to close Sprint’s prepaid boost mobile business and sell to Dish Network. Dish was allowed to lease T-Mobile’s network as MVNO, while it makes its 5G offerings, another part of the deal. The good news is that Dish is serious about bringing its network online soon.
Bad news is Dish’s current wireless business Still looks a bit bashful If T-Mobile is moving ahead of the closure of its 3G CDMA early next year, many customers of Dish can use it. While it does not technically violate the terms of the agreement, Dish president and co-founder Charlie Ergon This is called an “anti-competitive” move. This would obviously benefit T-Mobile and hurt Dish’s efforts.
So while T-Mobile’s unlimited plan is undoubtedly good for customers who sign up for it, the deal has made it possible, which could weaken the cellular industry across America. However, it is possible that we may see other benefits from T-Mobile offering this plan as it could put pressure on Verizon and AT&T to follow suit. This would not be the first time the self-designated Ankyare pushed more established companies to expand their offerings. (See also: Return of Unlimited Plans Many Years Ago.) We have asked AT&T and Verizon for comment and will update this article if we get information from them.
Another reason T-Mobile can offer this plan is to take advantage of its relatively strong 5G performance before AT&T and Verizon get their hands on more mid-band spectrum as a result. Recently concluded C-band auction. It won’t be until later this year or early 2022 that their customers will start to see the benefit of additional frequencies, so T-Mobile has an additional incentive to attract new customers in the short term.
It is also likely that the specifics of the plan will change as markets and networks change. Wireless plans are very complex, and carriers will continue to change them even when it makes good business sense to do so.
So what does a phone plan shopper do? The best bet might be to jump on a good deal this way while it is around if it makes sense for you and / or your family. Existing subscribers are often grandfathered in when plans are inevitably changed and some benefits may hang. Carriers are going to see their bottom line, so it is a good idea to do so.