T-Mobile: Scrappy moves, but turnaround elusive

Summary:T-Mobile is being scrappy and trying to lure unlocked iPhones to its network. Combined with the marketing of its network and unlimited data plans, T-Mobile likes the underdog role.

T-Mobile's subscriber statistics aren't so great, J.D. Power pans the company and it's the lone carrier among the big four in the U.S. without Apple's iPhone. But give T-Mobile credit for being scrappy.

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First, T-Mobile tried to offset the perception that its network stinks. New commercials and pitches at mall kiosks have made headway there. Then, T-Mobile pitched its unlimited data plans. And now T-Mobile is trying to lure iPhone users from other networks who have let their contracts expire.

Ultimately, T-Mobile's subscribers and growth will determine whether the carrier has been successful, but for now the company seems to be relishing its underdog role---not that it has much of a choice.

In a blog post, T-Mobile noted:

T-Mobile has been a champion of “bring your own device” wireless with our affordable Value plans that separate the cost of wireless service from the purchase of a new phone. This means there are a lot of devices running on our network that we don’t sell in our stores, including more than 1M iPhones. We see a big opportunity to make the experience of bringing an unlocked iPhone to T-Mobile even better for customers.

The main pitch here is that T-Mobile is arguing that it'll save users $50 a month over AT&T, which happened to want to acquire its smaller rival. T-Mobile will also pitch unlimited data plans and "nationwide coverage that's only getting better."

On that latter point, T-Mobile is arguing that its HSPA+ network beats AT&T's on iPhone download speeds. There's a reason that T-Mobile is targeting AT&T: The two carriers operate on the GSM standard so switching is easier for customers. Sprint and Verizon iPhones won't work on T-Mobile's network.

There are a few catches to note, however. Roger Cheng at CNET noted that T-Mobile will have to offer 2G to unlocked phones in many parts of the U.S. Meanwhile, 4G availability is sketchy on T-Mobile.

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The comparison for T-Mobile here is Sprint's turnaround. Sprint was known for crappy customer service, but then corrected the issues over time. Sprint also landed the iPhone at a hefty cost to fill its network. It remains to be seen if T-Mobile can pull off a turnaround like Sprint, but it's off to a good start---at least based on perception and marketing. The financials are still stacked against T-Mobile. 

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Topics: Telcos, Networking

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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