Amid talks of a potential purchase by Japanese telecom firm Softbank, T-Mobile is taking aim at its larger domestic rivals by beefing up its popular $50 Simple Choice plan with more data and new international features, and expanding its LTE coverage nationwide.
In an interview with TV host Charlie Rose, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said that in the U.S. wireless industry, the two largest carriers — Verizon and AT&T — take roughly 90% of the free cash flow, creating uneven competition.
Acquiring T-Mobile would enable SoftBank, which owns Sprint, to gain enough scale to launch a "heavyweight fight," undersell the competition and postpone profits in order to gain market share. "We would like to make a deal but there are steps and details that we have to work out," Son said.
Legendarily outspoken T-Mobile CEO, John Legere, didn't tweet on the possible acquisition, but he bashed Verizon with this one: "@verizonwireless map ads representing our coverage is wrong! @TMobile covers #96percent of Americans!" That was just one tweet in that vein on the same day the company announced its LTE expansion.
The self-proclaimed "uncarrier," T-Mobile has earned the title of fastest-growing wireless carrier in the U.S., thanks in part to new services and solutions launched over the past year (and thanks in part to Legere’s attitude).
T-Mobile's 4G LTE network, which covers 210 million people in 273 metro areas nationwide, is expanding as 2G/EDGE is upgraded to 4G LTE, with 50% of the work expected to be completed this year. When the network upgrade is finished by the middle of 2015, EDGE customers will have faster service on 4G LTE, and many already in 4G LTE areas will gain greater access to 4G LTE in more places. New 4G LTE deployments this year will leverage the 700 MHz A-Block spectrum that T-Mobile is in the midst of acquiring.
Based on 6.5 million speed tests conducted in 2014 by actual customers using Ookla's Speedtest.net app on their own devices, T-Mobile claims to have the country’s fastest LTE network.
On top of the tweets, T-Mobile officially claims Verizon's TV ads are misleading and does not accurately reflect T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G coverage including both its HSPA+ and LTE technologies. The carrier is taking legal action to get Verizon to cease and desist.
Legere said in a release, "Right now, T-Mobile covers 96% of Americans, and over the past year, we've completely shattered records with the fastest 4G LTE deployment the U.S. wireless industry has ever seen. Our competitors want you to believe our network doesn't measure up. But that just isn't true. And American consumers are going to see right through the spin and half-truths when given the facts."
Doubling Down on Data
The carrier is also automatically giving $50 Simple Choice customers (the starting point for plans) more 4G LTE data, tethering and unlimited international texting without raising prices. The move satisfies growing demand for more data, as T-Mobile reports that its customers use roughly 50% more data today than a year ago when Simple Choice first debuted. What’s more, customers on unlimited 4G LTE plans have almost doubled their monthly data usage to more than 5GB.
Simple Choice plans might also be more attractive to the enterprise now that T-Mobile is offering free unlimited international texting in more than 120 countries. The carrier also expanded international roaming capabilities in the plan, adding seven new countries to the existing 115 where Simple Choice customers can use unlimited data and texting, and place international calls for 20 cents per minute.
The plan upgrade kicks in on March 23 for postpaid customers; prepaid customers will have to wait until April 26.