The self proclaimed 'Uncarrier' has been constantly shaking up the cellular industry by rolling out a series of initiatives that have set the pace for everyone else to copy.
Thanks to pressure from T-Mobile, all of the carriers have given up on requiring contracts and device subsidies, and they have all but eliminated overage charges.
Coverage & Speed Notes
T-Mobile has been expanding its coverage area faster than any other carrier, and in many urban areas it has begun to rival Verizon and AT&T.
And where T-Mobile does have coverage - its LTE network tends to be extremely fast.
The bigger and older carriers (Verizon and AT&T) do however still have an undeniable advantage in less populated areas.
Particularly in remote rural areas, T-Mobile tends to be in distant third place. Because of this, for RVers who travel off the beaten path T-Mobile is rarely well suited to being the only carrier on board.
But as a secondary carrier, T-Mobile is often ideal.
IMPORTANT: Much of T-Mobile's coverage expansion since 2015 requires a newer device that supports LTE Band 12, which T-Mobile refers to as "Extended Range LTE". Older devices will be stuck in the slow lane if they are not compatible. In spring 2017, T-Mobile acquired a substantial chunk of 600MHz spectrum (which will be Band 71) that will be the basis of future new coverage - however currently, there are no devices that support it. We recommend not investing too much in new T-Mobile equipment right now, as an equipment upgrade will be necessary in the near term future as the new coverage is deployed.
T-Mobile Plans & Features
In August 2016 T-Mobile launched the "all unlimited" One and One+ plans, and in January 2017 T-Mobile retired its popular Simple Choice plans for new customers leaving the One plans as the only choice. In August 2017, T-Mobile added a senior plan with reduced pricing for account holders 55 years of age and older.
- T-Mobile One smartphone and tablet plans start at a base price of $70 for unlimited talk, text and data. If you need more than a single line, things get progressively cheaper the more lines you add.
- Account holders aged 55+ are eligible for a 2 line One+ plan starting at a price of $50 (with autopay) for unlimited talk, text and data. Other than the 2 line restriction and the need to be 55+, this plan is identical to the plans available to all customers.
Here are some of the most interesting policies and perks of the T-Mobile One plan:
- Unlimited (Almost) Everything: Talk, text, and on device data are unlimited and there are no overage charges to worry about. But there ARE some important restrictions to be aware of.
- Network Management: Customers who are in the top 3% of heaviest users on T-Mobile (currently those using 50GB/mo) are subject to network management once they have crossed this monthly threshold, which means that their ongoing usage will be slowed down relative to other T-Mobile customers - but only when towers are congested.
- Domestic Roaming Limits: After 200mb of domestic roaming data usage, T-Mobile cuts off roaming network usage until your next billing cycle, or until you're back in a native area.
- HD Video Streaming: The base One plan only includes 480p video resolution. However upgrading to One+ or One+International allows for full HD resolution video streaming.
- SD Video in Canada & Mexico: While usage is still unlimited in these countries, video will be throttled down to 480p.
- Mobile Hotspot: All T-Mobile One plans include mobile hotspot use at 3G (512kbps) speeds. One+ customers (+ $10/mo) get 10GB of 4G high-speed mobile hotspot or tethering use, and then 3G speeds for the remainder of the month for tethering. Customers who are paying the $25/mo "One+ International" upgrade get unlimited high-speed hotspot usage.
- De-Prioritized Data: On device data speeds are prioritized over mobile hotspot speeds, so on congested towers there may be a noticeable performance hit.
- Primarily For On Device Usage: T-Mobile reserves the right to contact customers 'to discuss options' for those using the plans primarily as a mobile hotspot.
- Standalone Hotspots: The One plans support smartphones and tablets, and dedicated hotspots and routers can NOT be used with unlimited plans. Metered data-only plans are still available for these types of devices.
- Taxes & Fees Included: Beginning in January 2017, all T-Mobile One plans are flat priced and inclusive of taxes & fees.
- The Uncontract: T-Mobile promises to never raise your prices or cancel your plan, even if the plan you are on is retired for new customers.
- T-Mobile Tuesdays: Every Tuesday T-Mobile customers get something free for logging in to a special website. In the past it was weekly fully free pizza, though the offers have not been nearly as exciting in a while.
- Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi: T-Mobile One plans include one hour per flight of free Gogo access to get a smartphone online, and for $5/mo the One+ plan adds unlimited Gogo usage and a few other perks.
- Mobile Without Borders - Canada & Mexico: All T-Mobile plans can be used anywhere in Mexico & Canada just as if you were at home, including tethering! T-Mobile does reserve the right to enforce a policy that the plan needs to be used 'mostly' in the USA, so extended snowbirds should be wary.
- Simple Mobile - Rest of the World: T-Mobile plans include free unlimited international text messaging, and free unlimited data in over 140 counties internationally at a slow (but useable) 256kbps speed. T-Mobile also has reasonable rates for voice calls too.
T-Mobile began phasing out Simple Choice plans in September 2016, and eliminated them in January 2017. However, they have gone on record that they will grandfather these plans for as long as customers keep paying their bill. These plans had tiered high speed data caps, Binge On unlimited video streaming and Data Stash.
In particular, we regularly recommended the $35/month 6GB data only plan.
Here are some of the key features of this plan:
- International: Binge On video streaming is not included outside the USA. Simple Choice customers can purchase pricey Data Passes for 3G international speeds for outside of North America.
- Mobile Hotspot Use: T-Mobile plans include mobile hotspot use, however they do prioritize on device data over tethered / mobile hotspot data on all smartphone and tablet plans when on congested towers.
- Data Roll Over: Any high speed data you don't use is rolled over into 'Data Stash' for up to a year. You can accumulate up to 20GB in this account, to use when you need it.
- Overage Charges: T-Mobile never charges overage fees. Once you hit your high speed data cap, you are simply slowed down to 2G speeds for the rest of the billing period.
- Simple Choice - Binge On! All Simple Choice plans (postpaid) with 6GB of data or more include video streaming that does not count against your high speed data cap on partnered networks (including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBONow, YouTube, etc.), but at DVD-quality lower resolution. It officially only works on-device or when tethered to a laptop - but many have reported success using the service now with Roku, AppleTV, Chromecast, FireTV, etc (be sure to carefully watch your data usage!) They also include free music streaming over many services. (Note, their Prepaid plans do NOT include the video streaming.) Binge On usage does count towards network management thresholds and is subject to slower speeds for high usage customers when on congested towers after using 32GB of data in a month.
- Unlimited Data Plans: Include 14GB of high speed mobile hotspot use, and are subject to network management.
Note: Reseller Millenicom still offers the Simple Choice data only plans with the same pricing and benefits.
T-Mobile is the carrier to watch right now, and they claim that by the end of 2017 their coverage map will rival Verizon's.
While T-Mobile's coverage has been constantly expanding, at this time we still can not recommend T-Mobile as a primary carrier for travelers who need the most coverage nationwide.
But as a secondary carrier T-Mobile has a LOT to offer. Particularly for those needing great international support, T-Mobile is hard to beat.
Recent T-Mobile News Stories:
- Metro PCS Adds 2GB of Hotspot Data, Increases Family Line Pricing Posted on: October 13, 2017
- T-Mobile Implements 5GB Data Cap in Canada/Mexico Posted on: October 11, 2017
- T-Mobile Raises Network Management Threshold to 50GB Posted on: September 19, 2017
- Apple's New iPhones - Cellular Performance Potential Analyzed Posted on: September 16, 2017
- Cell Carriers Respond to Hurricane Irma Posted on: September 12, 2017
Testing Status: We keep a minimal data only Simple Choice plan with T-Mobile, and have an unlimited data plan from Unlimitedville.
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Simple Choice Ratings
T-Mobile is the carrier to watch, and a worthwhile consideration as a secondary network for RVers.