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FAQ: T-Mobile's new phones, LTE in seven cities, and no-contract plans

Matt Hamblen | March 27, 2013
Details of T-Mobile's new sales and network plans are disclosed in a Webcast featuring CEO John Legere today

T-Mobile CEO John Legere
T-Mobile CEO John Legere explains the new phone pricing and rate plans at an event in New York City.

Do phone buyers have to pay interest charges? No interest will be charged. The total cost of a phone will be actually less than what other carriers might charge for an unsubsidized version, T-Mobile asserted.

So, is this an unsubsidized phone pricing plan? Legere repeatedly said the T-Mobile phone pricing plan does not mean they are unsubsidized phones, since its prices are less than full unlocked prices. That's true for the iPhone 5 full price from T-Mobile, for example, which is $70 less than what Apple charges.

Given that these are prices without the same subsidies offered by other carriers, are the T-Mobile phones locked for use with T-Mobile service only? They remain locked to T-Mobile until a person pays off the phone, either over the 24-month plan or any time before then. Are there any other gotchas? Throttling is one gotcha. Even with an unlimited data plan of $70 a month for one phone with T-Mobile, there is the chance the 4G speeds will be throttled to a slower speed if usage exceeds 5GB.

T-Mobile details the policy in a pop-up in the rate plan showing section 11 of its Data Plan Terms, but doesn't specify what speed the throttling will be--at least in section 11. (Click on " See Data Plan Terms for more details," a link near the bottom of the page.) How serious can throttling be? T-Mobile throttles to 2G speeds on its 500 MB and 2 GB plans once 500 MB and 2.5 GB are reached in a given month. 2G is defined as low as 50 Kbps to 100 Kbps in a support section of the T-Mobile site, although users on various carriers have seen 2G speeds at 50 Kbps to 350 Kbps.

Speeds over wireless are variable, depending on topography, the number of users on a cell tower and the handsets and software they are using. Advertised speeds are often well above what users experience when running speed tests on their Web browsers.

Any other gotchas? It's not exactly a gotcha, but don't confuse T-Mobile's three data service plans with data sharing plans like AT&T and Verizon Wireless announced last year.

With each new family plan, T-Mobile won't allow users to share data, even if connected to one device over Wi-Fi. A two-line plan costs $80 a month, $30 more than the $50 for unlimited voice, data and 500 MB of high-speed data. Three lines and each additional line cost another $10 per month.

 

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