Ina Fried

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T-Mobile Aims to Remake Itself With New Network, New Plans and New Devices

After spending months getting its network and business ready, T-Mobile USA is ready to show its new look to the world.

t-mobile-girl-holding-iphone

The revamped No. 4 carrier is still the underdog, of course, but now the company has some of the pieces it has long been missing. T-Mobile has been readying an LTE network, making plans to stop subsidizing new phones, and has struck a deal to start selling the iPhone.

The one piece of the puzzle that remains unresolved is the company’s pending merger with MetroPCS. That deal has won regulatory approval but is still subject to an April vote of MetroPCS shareholders.

T-Mobile is set to announce details of its efforts at an event due to take place later on Tuesday.

AllThingsD will have live coverage when the event kicks off around 8:30 am PT.

Earlier:

8:02 am: It’s apparently quite cold, and reporters haven’t been let in to the T-Mobile event in New York. (We’re covering via the Webcast, which, Internet feed permitting, seems like the right call.)

Associated Press reporter Peter Svensson notes that it isn’t so much cold in New York as it is “unwarm.” (T-Mobile likes to bill itself as the “uncarrier.”)

8:08 am: The event hasn’t started, but some new ads are showing up on places like CNET. They show T-Mobile with a new slogan of “un-leash” and promote the hashtag #simplechoice.

Here’s a look at one:

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 8.07.52 AM

8:11 am: T-Mobile has also posted a PDF of a press release on its website announcing its first LTE-compatible hotspot.

8:15 am: T-Mobile is also tweeting away, with its latest post proclaiming, “Today we will break away from the absurd norms of the wireless industry. Big announcements coming in 10min.”

8:24 am: T-Mobile is going big on the theme that folks are being trapped in the current business model.

Apparently the scene inside the press conference is very eerie. That contrasts with the hold music on the Webcast, which is pretty standard-fare Muzak.

More scenes from inside, courtesy of Twitter:

8:31 am: Okay, things are kicking off with a video of Jason Jones exposing the “seedy industry” of wireless.

Jones, for those who aren’t familiar, is of “The Daily Show” fame.

8:35 am: T-Mobile’s event is just getting started, but a press release that just hit our inbox confirms the big news.

The iPhone 5 will be available soon, along with other LTE-capable devices including the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note II, BlackBerry Z10 and the Sonic 2.0 hotspot we mentioned before.

The carrier is launching its LTE network in seven areas including Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose and Washington, D.C.

There’s also the new rate plans, as well as a Western-themed “un-leash” ad campaign that will kick off tomorrow.

8:40 am: T-Mobile is going off on the traditional way of doing business, lashing out at the contract approach to cellphones.

Meanwhile, back onstage, T-Mobile is going off about the downsides of the cellphone business.

“That phone that seems so beautiful when you walk into the store … How long before it seems like a dinosaur?” T-Mobile is saying onstage.

And the carriers, they love you — once every 23 months.

8:43 am: Next target: Overages.

The pink-T-shirt-clad speaker, by the way, is CEO John Legere, who just gave out his email address (john.legere@t-mobile.com).

“The industry is broken,” Legere said.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 8.41.33 AM

8:45 am: T-Mobile says it takes issue with the characterization that it is moving away from unsubsidized phones.

“This is the biggest crock of shit I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” Legere said. Do you have any idea how much you are paying?

“You pay a lot for these gadgets,” Legere said, noting that customers would be lucky if all they paid was full price.

8:48 am: Now he’s talking about what T-Mobile brings to the table, starting with its LTE network.

Legere highlights the fact that where T-Mobile doesn’t have LTE, customers will still get a very fast HSPA+ network.

The company has temporarily also turned on LTE service in New York, so those at the press conference can try it out. New York will probably be on by early summer, Legere said, noting that he is not good at keeping secrets.

On the rate plans, T-Mobile has Simple Choice, which are its value plans. Customers choose the amount of high-speed data they want, along with the number of lines they want.

“That’s it,” Legere said. “Even I can remember this.”

8:52 am: Next. Contracts.

“How do you think we feel about contracts?” Legere said.

Legere calls it smartphone hell. “If you come to T-Mobile, you have signed your last contract. They are gone. No more.

“I didn’t say we are going completely into the prepaid business,” he notes. “We are just no-contract.”

T-Mobile will charge the same for prepaid and postpaid customers.

8:54 am: And he just said “shit” again. And “crap.” This guy is fun.

“If we suck this month, drop us,” he said. “But if we’re good, stay with us.”

Legere notes, “I hope I am not coming across as angry here.”

8:55 am: iPhone time.

You can get it for $99 upfront. No contract. In the stores April 12.

“It was such a huge void” in our device portfolio, Legere said. The full cost of the iPhone is $99 down and $20 a month for 24 months.

That’s still $1,000 less over two years than AT&T.

“So, who’s subsidizing what?”

The T-Mobile iPhone 5 will work in all of T-Mobile’s band of spectrum in both LTE and HSPA+.

T-Mobile’s iPhone 5 will also support HD Voice (a technology that offers better sound quality). To work, it requires both ends be on the same network (at least for now), and for both sides of the call to have an HD Voice-compatible device.

9:00 am: T-Mobile will have the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, but those devices will only work in the 1900MHz band of spectrum — T-Mobile has been working to make its network compatible with that frequency.

9:02 am: “We’re canceling our membership in the carrier club,” Legere said. (Don’t worry CTIA, I don’t think they literally are.)

“This is just the start.”

9:03 am: Now coming onstage is T-Mobile marketing chief Mike Sievert (a former Microsoft and AT&T wireless executive).

Sievert is talking about the importance of operating on the same spectrum as AT&T, allowing its customers to easily move over (and paving the way for those older iPhones to work with T-Mobile).

9:08 am: Sievert is showing all the different options with other carriers, holding up different AT&T brochures.

“This is what we’ve been inspired by,” Sievert said, saying people feel not only confused but misled by wireless carriers.

9:10 am: Additional lines, even for an iPhone, cost $10, including 500 megabytes of high-speed data. (It’s $20 more than that for unlimited data.)

9:15 am: The Galaxy S4 will come around May 1, Sievert said.

“It’s time to disrupt the status quo in this industry,” Sievert said.

9:20 am: They are on to Q&A.

Meanwhile, here are more details on the iPhone lineup that T-Mobile just announced.

9:24 am: Asked about mobile hotspot capability, tethering is included with the plans (except the unlimited one, where you get a finite amount of hotspot data).

T-Mobile notes that it presently has more bandwidth than it knows what to do with, and that its unlimited plans are really unlimited. Current Galaxy S3 customers on unlimited plans, Legere said, are using an average of three gigabytes of data.

And usage is growing. “What’s three gigs now is going to be five, is going to be 10,” Legere said.

9:30 am: The Q&A session is mostly lots of nerdy questions on using phones as hotspots, and the limits of unlimited data.

Legere promises that the unlimited plan really is unlimited, though the company does have a fair-use policy, in case someone really is abusing the network.

9:36 am: Legere points out in the audience Braxton Carter, MetroPCS CFO and the CFO-designate of the combined company when the T-Mobile-MetroPCS deal is approved.

It will be approved, despite several greedy hedge funds, Legere said.

LTE will be even better once T-Mobile is able to migrate MetroPCS customers onto T-Mobile’s network and then repurpose its spectrum.

9:38 am: And that’s it, folks. Those at the event are getting to try out various devices on T-Mobile’s LTE network.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus