Now that the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile has fallen through, the underdog cellular companies are jockeying for better position in the marketplace.
It used to be that voice minutes were the pivot but now unlimited talk time is not that unusual. The battlefield shifted to texting, in which major players would force consumers to buy bulk messages to avoid being niggled with incremental costs for individual texts. Now the concentration is on data.
T-Mobile pushed unlimited data earlier in 2014, but this claim had caveats. T-Mobile included 500 mb of unlimited data at 4G LTE speed, but afterwards the speed dropped down to 2G level, which was OK for slowly opening e-mails but not really adequate for Web 2.0. Thus consumers faced adding on data packages along with base $50 for talk and text. There are three added tiers for T-Mobile data, an extra $10 for 3GB, +$20 for 5GB and +$30 for “unlimited” data. Add on taxes and fees, consumers could expect to pay around $71, $83 and $95 respectively for their tiered talk/text and data plans. That does not represent a lot of savings for individuals from the so called Un-Carrier.
Sprint is rolling out what it terms “disruptive pricing”along with the prospect of unlimited 4G LTE data to grow its market share. Sprint killed the “Framily” plan but replaced it with a temporary “New Day for Data” deal which data hungry cellular customers should like. Through September 30, 2014, Sprint will allow four lines with unlimited talk/text and 20 GB of data (plus an extra 2 GB per line until the end of 2014) for $100 a month. Plus Sprint will pay up to $350 in termination fees. That sounds great, but the devil is in the details.
So if you are a seriously heavy data user and need mobile data outside of major cities, Sprint may have a deal for you–but beware as the good times only last for so long. And good luck keeping the terms straight.
Data driven consumers may also wish to consider a Mobile Virtual Network Operator on the Sprint network called FreedomPop.
FreedomPop now offers LTE Phones (Samsung Galaxy 4, Galaxy SIII and Victory) with unlimited talk/text and data for $19.99, but their idea of unlimited is 1 GB at 4G LTE and then governed down to 3G speeds for the remainder. FreedomPop also has a deal for “unlimited” data on tablets. FreedomPop is selling the iPad Mini and the Galaxy 3 tab which are refurbished 7″ tablets with 4G LTE which also participate in the $19.99 unlimited talk/text and governed data but with mobile hotspot enabled.
Many of the self-selected digerati may scoff at Sprint, T-Mobile and a MVNO claiming that their data speed sucks. Fine, then pay a premium for Verizon Wireless and have a paltry bucket of data. AT and T also is parsimonious about doling out data and extra use really is costly.
All consumers need to make the right choice for them. Speed and coverage can be important factors in choosing cell providers. But the bottom line also drives decision-making for thrifty techies.
It seems that there are no easy answer for data hungry cellular consumers but only trade offs.