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T-Mobile: Scrappy moves, but turnaround elusive

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.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

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.


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.


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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