Friday, April 10, 2015

What EXACTLY do you get w/T-Mobile's $100 2/Line Unlimited Plan?

T-Mobile has a fantastic promotion that started in December 2014.  Get two lines with unlimited everything, including unlimited 4G LTE data for just $100!  That is exciting and really made many people very happy.

First, let's begin with the definition of the term, unlimited:

  1. not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent.
    "the range of possible adaptations was unlimited"
So, with that definition in mind, if you have an unlimited plan with T-Mobile, what are the constraints?  Sounds like an oxy-moron, doesn't it? How can something be unlimited, limitless, unconstrained, yet have constraints.  What am I talking about? Well, my wife and I are on T-Mobile's amazing offer of 2 lines with "unlimited" data for $100/month.  Unfortunately, my wife and I just found out that unlimited is a bit far fetched.  Why?

Well, last billing cycle my wife and I breached the unpublished 20GB (gigabyte) threshold whereby T-Mobile "de-prioritizes" your connection on the local tower.  What does that mean, you ask?  Well, that means that your connection is reset once you breach the threshold of 20GB of data.  The result?:  Well, my case, my connection averaged 0.22 Mbps for downloads and 1.5 Mbps for uploads.  What this means is that it is virtually impossible to load almost any page at this speed as it times out constantly.  So much for unlimited data.  To add to the aggravation, the top speeds at our new place prior to the throttling are typically 3Mbps for downloads and 1-2 Mbps for uploads, which is bearly 3G speeds as shown in the table below:

UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) 3G -- 384Kbps to 2Mbps
HSPA (software upgrade to UMTS, theoretical 42Mbps) 3.5G -- 600Kbps to 10Mbps, averages 1-3Mbps
WiMAX/LTE "4G" (theoretical 100Mbps) -- 3Mbps to 10Mbps average, 20Mbps+ peak download speeds

I called T-Mobile Customer Support and they informed me that given that I had unusually high data usage, they had de-prioritized my connection to allow others the opportunity to have a fair chance to have a good data experience.  The last time I checked, putting a customer on 0.22 Mbps data will not give that particular customer the warm and fuzzy.  

Stream all of the music you want, the company said, watch all of the movies you want, T-Mobile says on their commercials.  This also contradicts what T-Mobile CEO, John Legere said on an interview with David Pogue of YahooTech. On this video at 19:11 minutes regarding their capability to cover anyone.  "We have twice as much capability or capacity on our network per subscriber than they do (regarding AT&T and Verizon)"

Noteworthy is the fact that you are only slowed down at the tower nearest your home location (or the one that you use the most).  On all other T-Mobile towers, my phone worked as fast as expected. Frequently giving me between 10 Mbps to 30+ Mbps., which is still a better offering than the competition, who charges you overages when you reach your data cap, which at $50-$60 you are looking at 300 MB (megabytes) per month.  

I see the value proposition of T-Mobile, but unlimited should be UNLIMITED based on the definition above.

Here is my conversation about what UNLIMITED means on Twitter with the official T-Mobile Customer Care team: 

So, when a mobile company advertises unlimited anything, what do you expect?  Is it right to de-prioritize your data, which can result in slowing you down to where you may not be able to send a MMS? Or it takes several minutes to download the front page of Craigslist, if it does not time-out first?


  1. I think its unfair for someone to think they should be able to use 20plus GB of data every month for a $100.00 .On two lines, i have four and I use alot but not that much. And if I did ,what there doing for mE is not charging me more money. Which was a common practice. I would prefer the slow down. For using to much and not price increase. Which let me know to change my plan or change my usage. Problem solve

    1. It is not the customer's fault to use over 20GB when they are told, "Go ahead! Stream all that music, watch all those movies on America's Data Strong Network!". It sends a mixed message to bill a plan as UNLIMITED 4G-LTE and then slow down their speeds when they reach any threshold. If they cannot handle that they should not set themselves up for delivering a poor customer experience.

      Having said that, I should point out that my phone works at 4G LTE speeds when I leave my home tower range. (See, the slowdown is contingent upon network traffic. But a general slowdown would make more sense than having some customers with speeds in excess of 50Mbps and some at 0.01Mbps, regardless of use. It would make more sense to slow everyone down to 3Mbps to handle the traffic. Then 16 customers get 3Mbps, instead of the wide variation in speed - which can render a device useless for a period of time.

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