Last night at New York's Bryant Park, T-Mobile announced its plans to eliminate some of the mobile pain — the high cost of international roaming that is.
Starting Oct. 31, the carrier is offering Simple Choice customers unlimited data and texting in more than 100 countries, along with a global flat rate of 20 cents per minute for voice calls when roaming in the same countries.
Back in April, when the fourth-place Tier One carrier announced it was becoming the “Uncarrier,” Mobile Enterprise noted that “no company in their right mind is going to give away millions of devices, especially in combination with unlimited data plans.” And it looks like T-Mobile is indeed out of their minds, in a good way.
“Sometimes we can’t believe it ourselves,” said Drew Kelton, Executive Vice President of B2B, T-Mobile in an interview with Mobile Enterprise, a day after the announcement. Despite dancing the night away to Shakira’s Bryant Park concert, Kelton was upbeat and enthused.
“T-Mobile is starting the journey into the business market,” he said. And it’s a bold adventure. Businesses will definitely delight in the craziness, much to the dismay of the carrier’s competitors. Here’s some of the feedback Kelton has already received:
“T-Mobile has finally addressed the last bastion of carrier walls of the 1970s.”
“Does this mean I do not have to carry four SIM cards?”
“You couldn’t ask for a better game-changer.”
“Wow, what do your competitors think?”
T-Mobile hopes its competitors take a year to think about it. The traditional carriers cannot change the [huge] income stream from roaming overnight, Kelton said. The EEC has been trying to break down the barriers of roaming for years....competitors will struggle to outweigh these revenues.
A long time telecom executive, Kelton joined T-Mobile six months ago. Even though he worked for a phone company, he remembers his own fears when his mobile bill arrived, knowing he would be in sticker shock after frequent trips to India.
Sticker shock for the enterprise is nothing new when it comes to international travel. A mad-dash banker rushing to Europe to make a deal is certainly not going to worry about allocated data usage, but the enterprise will.
But while the CEO is making mandates to reduce international expenses, the CIO is saying “Not only is this a challenge, I don’t even know how to control this.” To compound the problem, mobile expenses are often allocated to the wrong departments —travel for example. How can the CIO even fix what isn’t seen?
Across the board, there are real pain points from cost, ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 per user monthly, on an average basis. “It’s a flawed philosophy to say ‘just pay the bill,’” Kelton said. “Rethink this. There are new compelling propositions on the table now.”
Larger multi-nationals by nature spend more money on travel, and with it comes the complex methodologies to control costs. But the reality, Kelton said, is that there are millions of U.S. travelers, so it doesn’t matter what the vertical is or how big the business, for a company to see benefits. And not only does the unlimited data plans solve a complex problem, he said, but offers transparency and clarity.
And, perhaps more importantly for the end user, “Now you can get off the plane and not worry about that nasty text,” said Kelton. Which text is that? The one that says sorry, you can’t use the phone in this country or you have already exceeded your usage.
Taking on Tablets
Speaking of transparency and visibility, it’s easy to see that this latest announcement is all part of T-Mobile’s road to the enterprise. While the national advertising campaign is consumer-based, (featuring a roaming traveler by the name of Jeremy), there will also be specific business marketing through appropriate channels, as well as social media in business communities.
As tablets are taking over business and T-Mobile seems to be trying to take over the world—of mobile plans, that is—for travelers with tablets, Kelton recommends making the upgrade to Simple Choice for the “fastest speed available.”
Rollout began nine months ago and is now ahead of the game. The latest-generation 4G LTE currently reaches more than 200 million people in 233 metros across the United States.
What’s next for T-Mobile? Enterprise domination? Expect to see more “Uncarrier” moves in Q1 and beyond. The company’s strategy, Kelton explained, is about addressing the pain points of customers, while inflicting disproportionate pain to competitors. “We have less to lose and all to gain,” he said.
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