T-Mobile launches unlimited no-contract 4G data plan for $70 a month

Move is part of an ambitious plan that includes LTE rollout and Apple devices including the iPhone

LAS VEGAS - T-Mobile USA has announced its unlimited nationwide 4G data plan will be available for $70 a month with no annual contract, starting on Wednesday.

The announcement is among a series of steps that T-Mobile CEO John Legere said are designed to help the nation's fourth-largest carrier grow and be competitive with the top carriers that are many times larger in size.

"If you thought T-Mobile went away, that we were not a significant player, think again," Legere said at a crowded press event at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Last year, as a first step in its revival, T-Mobile announced it would soon sell Apple products, presumably including the iPhone. Legere said Tuesday that he also expects to reverse declines in subscribers by the end of 2013.

T-Mobile will also activate Las Vegas on LTE within about two weeks, Neville Ray, the company's chief technology officer, told Computerworld, with 100 million customers to be reached with LTE by mid-year.

T-Mobile has fallen behind Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint in provisioning LTE, but the company plans to ratchet up quickly, officials said. "Our LTE will rock," Legere said, noting that it will be LTE Advance-capable from the start, even though smartphones won't have LTE Advance capability for more than a year.

Already, T-Mobile offers fast 4G speeds over HSPA+42, which is faster than what AT&T and Verizon can offer in New York City, Legere said, adding that AT&T's network there is "crap."

Ray said that average speeds on its HSPA+42 network are 8Mbps to 10Mbps, about what Verizon and AT&T are stating that their average LTE speeds have been so far.

Legere took shots at all three competitors in his wide-ranging remarks, peppering his comments with humor as he wore a New York Yankees baseball cap and a pink T-Mobile T-shirt.

He appeared alongside Joe Torre, former Yankees manager and now executive vice president of Major League Baseball operations. T-Mobile and MLB also announced on Tuesday a partnership to provide an on-field communication system powered by 4G wireless technology from T-Mobile.

The new no-annual-contract data plan is what Legere said is a centerpiece of T-Mobile's new attack on the marketplace, since it designed to address customer frustrations with the complexity of post-paid plans that lock in customers to two years at other carriers.

"Our Unlimited 4G data plans means 4G speeds, no caps and no overages on what [is a] smoking-fast, nationwide 4G network," he said. "This is the start of somebody listening to customers."

Legere also warned that part of his plans for T-Mobile include charging customers for the actual cost of a smartphone, which could be as much as $700, since T-Mobile won't be providing a subsidy, but will instead offer unlimited data, anytime upgrades, and no contract requirements.

He said customers would be able to come to T-Mobile with a five-month old phone, which T-Mobile would purchase, giving the customer a chance to purchase another with a no-contract requirement.

Already about 1.9 million iPhone owners have joined T-Mobile to take advantage of unlimited data plans, even though T-Mobile doesn't even sell the iPhone yet, Ray said.

Legere said that each month about 100,000 customers transfer their service to T-Mobile from other carriers. "They BYOD to us," he said.

Customers at other carriers are not being treated fairly by those carriers and have sought out T-Mobile instead, he added.

"While you're handcuffed, they go in your pockets," he said.

To launch the Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan with no annual contract, T-Mobile is offering the LG Optimus L9 for $200, with no contract. It features a 4.5-in. touchscreen.

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Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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