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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A study in magenta

Today I will detail T-Mobile's offerings in the prepaid world, specifically the Monthly 4G plans.  There are pay as you go options, but I will not detail them here.

The Stats:

T-Mobile is the #4 carrier in the US at the moment, just a head of Boost Mobile.  With the failed AT&T merger attempt (thank goodness it didn't happen) T-Mobile picked up some additional spectrum and some nice cash to help them along with 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) roll-out in the next year or so.

T-Mobile is a Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) provider.  The GSM standard is used nearly everywhere else in the world so taking your GSM enabled phone on vacation, or when you travel/relocate to another country, is easy to set up in other countries. AT&T is another major carrier that uses the GSM system.  Benefits of the GSM standard are quite apparent when your phone breaks or is damaged.  You can simply swap out the sim card (which can contain your contacts if you choose) and slip it right into a new/used compatible phone with ease.  This makes using GSM based prepaid preferable, if you end up no liking the service offered by a company, allowing you to easily transition with the same phone to other GSM carriers.  For those who prefer the iPhone, you can bring one to T-Mobile.

T-mobile runs on the 1700/1900/2100 MHz spectrum of cellular networks, with roaming agreements on the 850/900 EDGE network.  They have speeds from EDGE (2G), HSPA+ 21 Mbps and 42 Mbps (3/4G).  The 42 Mbps, which are theoretical maximum speeds, only available on certain phones that support it (HTC Sensation, Samsung Galaxy S Blaze and Galaxy S II).  T-Mobile is currently in the process of upgrading the 1900 MHz to HSPA speeds to provide more coverage and speed at 3G.  The 42 Mbps 4G network is comparable to LTE in download speeds, but lacks in upload speeds (around 2Mbps).


Tmobile makes no distinction between their postpaid and their prepaid service coverage.  The maps are exactly, which makes them a good choice for those looking for a larger network.  Data coverage is less, but at least you have voice roaming included when travelling across the US, Canada and Mexico (Canada and Mexico are extra cost).

The plans:

T-Mobile offers several options for smartphone users.  All come with unlimited minutes and texts, but data is throttled after the full speed limit is reached.  Officially it is unlimited everything, but passing the data limit, you get throttled down to EDGE speeds which stinks big time.  The limits are as follows:

$70 plan: 5 GB
$60 plan: 2 GB
$50 plan: 100 MB
$30 plan: 5 GB**

** The $30 plan only has 100 minutes offered and is a great option for heavy data users who do not talk much.  Minutes beyond 100 are charged at $0.10 per minute from your account.

T-Mobile also offers a hot-spot add-on for $15 per month.  411 calls cost extra.  International calling and texting for $10/month to over 50 Countries.

For tablet users:

T-Mobile does offer some pretty good deals for 3G tablet owners who do not want to pay the crazy prices and be locked into a contract.  The limits per month are:

$25 plan: 1.5 GB
$35 plan: 3.5 GB
$50 plan: 5 GB

If the limit is exceeded prior to the end of the 30 day period, the device will stop working, or your account will be deducted the appropriate amount to reset the limits to above.

My opinion:

T-Mobile has a tremendous offering here.  Straight forward options and the ability to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).  Network coverage is good as well as the speeds.  The 2GB plan is a little higher than I wish but, with increasing competition, could be lowered in time.  Their network is going through continuous upgrades and is slated for LTE in the future


Decent network size
3G/4G with decent speeds (including 42 Mbps on select devices)
Unlimited minutes and texting
Voice Roaming
Data is "unlimited"
Really nice Broadband plans for tablets
BYOD (save more money getting used ones from Ebay or similar sites)
Network upgrade benefits
Access to full T-Mobile network


Slightly higher smartphone plan cost
$50 plan should be more than just 100 MB limit
Data is throttled to slow EDGE speeds after your limit is reached.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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