This seems to be the month of cellular carrier one-upsmanship. First, T-Mobile introduced new unlimited data options in the form of its new One plans, and Sprint followed suit with Unlimited Freedom. From there, things escalated quickly: U.S. Cellular launched revamped plans of its own, and Sprint fired back with a new premium data offering.
And now, not to be outdone by the swift competition, T-Mobile is responding. On Monday, the self-styled Un-carrier announced changes to the One plan that position it well against the newfound competition.
“We’ve ended data buckets, gone unlimited and now we’re amping up T-Mobile One to make it even better,” said T-Mobile chief John Leger in a press release. “Listening to customers is at the core of the Un-carrier.”
First up are what T-Mobile is calling HD “day passes.” The Magenta carrier, perhaps in response to the cacophony of social media criticism over its decision to lock high-definition video streaming on its One plan behind a $25 a month per-line paywall, is introducing a provisional, potentially more affordable way to stream movies, TV shows, and web clips in HD. It’s simple: forking over $3 nets you 24 hours of unrestricted video streaming. T-Mobile said it’ll roll this out in October.
Next is One Plus, T-Mobile’s new, premium-tier plan that will slot highest on the carrier’s offerings. For $25 a month per line atop your base One bill, you get what T-Mobile is calling an “industry first”: unlimited high-speed tethering. Your phone, tablet, or dedicated hot spot device get 4G LTE connectivity largely without restriction — a boost over standard One plan, which artificially limits tethered downloads and uploads to 2G (128 Kbps to 512 Kbps). T-Mobile said it represents a “quadrupling” of speeds.
And finally, T-Mobile said all One subscribers will see their tethering speeds boosted to 3G — regardless of whether or not they subscribe to the new One Plus plan. And the carrier’s rolling out One plans sooner than anticipated: September 1, rather than the September 6 date previously announced.
The newly announced One Plan adds aren’t without caveats, of course. T-Mobile’s traditional fine print applies: use over 26GB per month and you’ll have your “[data] usage prioritized below other traffic” in congested areas and could see your “primary data usage” restricted to a smartphone. And woe are customers who use Samsung smartphones: T-Mobile said that Samsung’s Smartphone Mobile Hotspot feature, a proprietary hotspot feature on certain Galaxy devices, won’t receive “priority” on T-Mobile’s network.
Still, T-Mobile’s new deals are a relative bargain for what they offer. Sprint’s new high-end unlimited tier, Unlimited Freedom Premium, includes HD video streaming and boosts the speed of gaming (to 8 Mbps from 2 Mbps) and music (2 Mbps from 500 Kbps) traffic, but caps 4G tethered data to 5GB. And the Now carrier offers no direct equivalent to T-Mobile’s day pass, although Unlimited Freedom subscribers could theoretically pay $25 for a weeks-long upgrade to Premium.
For the sake of comparison among the four major U.S. carriers, a T-Mobile One Plus plan works out to $95 per month for a single line. Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom Premium plan starts at $80. A one-line unlimited data plan on AT&T, offered as part of the ISP’s DirecTV television packages, is $150. And Verizon doesn’t offer unlimited data.