T-Mobile on a roll

05 Feb 2015

This article originally appeared in the DisruptiveViews blog

T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere must have read all the books on how to disrupt a market in the hope that it will bring his company somewhere closer to the heights his main competitors (Verizon and AT&T) have reached. And you have to give him full marks for trying, even if his methods are sometimes a little, well, unconventional.

In December he boldly claimed he could and would do things for his customers that his competitors either couldn’t do or were too greedy to do (see video) by offering access to online music services at no charge. He then introduced a data rollover allowing T-Mobile customers to roll over any unused data to the next billing period for up to one year.

On top of that he offered existing T-Mobile customers on any plan another 10 additional gigabytes of data to roll over, free of charge, appropriately called Data Stash. This is on top of Legere’s other “uncarrier” activities that included the elimination of contracts, letting customers pay lower monthly rates by buying their own phones. Then came the “Jump” program, allowing customers to upgrade phones twice a year, the killing of roaming fees and slashing of per-minute and text charges.

The T-Mobile billing department must be pretty busy these days, not just implementing new plans and fees, but trying to work out how to effectively and accurately introduce all these changes to existing plans.

It wasn’t long before AT&T responded, perhaps after noticing substantial churn, by announcing its own Rollover Data scheme, but with some caveats. Not surprising, really, because the last time AT&T offered a rollover option for voice minutes (when voice was king) but without any cutoff period that led to customers building up monstrous caches of unused voice minutes.

This time Rollover Data automatically rolls unused data over for a period of just one month – not nearly as generous as T-Mobile, but at least something to keep the faithful on board.

However, the biggest player in the market, Verizon, is not going to play ball. CFO Fran Shammo boldly announced that it simply doesn’t make much financial sense to offer its customers a rollover option from where Verizon stands now. “We’re a leader, not a follower,” Shammo said in a recent interview. Bold words indeed but let’s see how long Verizon holds it if subscribers start heading to better climes.

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