In a push to shore up 5G subscribers, T-Mobile announced it will let all postpaid subscribers upgrade to unlimited data plans for free. The promotion, which includes former Sprint users, will also apply to customers with limited data plans who switch over from Verizon or AT&T. T-Mobile wasn’t shy about its intent to siphon subscribers from competing firms, claiming “50 million Americans are stuck on limited data plans from Verizon or AT&T.” Not one for subtlety, the telecom calls its new initiative, “The Great Unlimited Trade-Up.” Unlimited plans like these are essential for the future of 5G wireless communications, which inevitably requires large amounts of data.
The free upgrade to unlimited is just one of several new initiatives by T-Mobile to bring in more subscribers to its 5G network.
T-Mobile’s free unlimited offering could pressure AT&T, Verizon, and ISPs to rethink data options or reduce prices. T-Mobile set itself apart from competitors at the offset by focusing more on low-band spectrum, enabling it to cover up to 200 million people in the US. T-Mobile’s coverage area and its gobbling up of spectrum had already pressured its rivals to expand their own coverage and the free unlimited upgrades may pressure competitors to rethink their own limited plans as well. Separately, T-Mobile’s wireless internet offering could pressure ISPs, especially in rural areas, to lower prices or find other ways to keep customers from considering T-Mobile.
T-Mobile is starting to press its advantage in 5G spectrum and nationwide coverage in an attempt to increase its subscriber base. T-Mobile entered 2021 as the leader in 5G coverage and expanded that even further by spending $9.3 billion in the FCC’s recent C-band spectrum auction. So far, however, all that investment hasn’t translated to subscriber dominance. In 2020, according to eMarketer’s forecast, T-Mobile and Verizon were neck and neck with 5.5 million 5G mobile phone users each. By 2024, we forecast Verizon will take the lead with 58.7 million users compared with T-Mobile’s 51.9 million. Ideally, T-Mobile would prefer for its massive—and expensive—investment in 5G to propel it into the 5G subscription leadership spot in the near future. With all these new 5G program offerings and incentives, that could be a real possibility.
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