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Worst of the Week: Sprint T-Mobile One Freedom Plus Unlimited!

Sprint and T-Mobile showed that when it comes to nonsensical rate plan moves, they are indeed leading the market … and we all benefit

Hello! And welcome to our Friday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!

Not sure about the rest of you, but I have been loving the insane changes domestic carriers have been making to their rate plans over the past few weeks.

I thought for sure that with a combination of there being fewer facilities-based mobile carriers and T-Mobile US and Sprint starting to assert themselves in competing against larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility in the market, that we would see a significant dip in the amount of rate-plan craziness we used to all know and love.

But thankfully chaos continues to reign, and even better is that it seems carriers have really lost their minds in terms of their strategies.

For example, the past week witnessed both Sprint and T-Mobile US roll out new options for rate plans they literally just launched.

In the case of Sprint, the carrier initially announced its “Unlimited Freedom” plans Aug. 18, only to add the “Premium” moniker a week later. Sure the update includes some new features and a higher price (premium!), but it sort of plays out like Sprint forgot it had this premium offer set to go, leaving consumers with a week of questions about the shortcomings of the initial plan.

T-Mobile US did the same, announcing its new One plans also on Aug. 18, only to come back 11 days later with One Plus. The update, similar to Sprint, also looked to correct some of the shortcomings of the first offer at a pricing premium.

I am going to assume that these carriers are not agile enough to just roll out new rate plans whenever the feeling strikes and that instead there is some planning involved in the process. Thus, I would also have to assume that these convenient updates were always part of the plan. Heck, Sprint and T-Mobile US even mentioned at some point in their respective press releases or follow-up comments that these moves were indeed planned months – if not years – in advance.

But, a more cynical view would conclude that while these plan changes were indeed somewhere in the pipeline, they may have actually been rushed to market due to competitive concerns.

For instance, T-Mobile US’ initial One announcement lacked the typical run-up hype we have come to expect from the carrier that often seems more enamored with its “Un-carrier” initiatives than might be warranted.


That’s better.

Instead the carrier kept the announcement fairly quiet, which is impressive considering the scope and scale of the announcement. I mean the carrier launches an “unlimited” everything plan, with the further hook that this plan will become its staple offering going forward. That’s some big news, and of such scale that it would seem unlikely anyone would want to or be able to copy the move without some serious planning.

Of course, not five minutes later did Sprint indeed unveil its “Unlimited Freedom” plan, which was basically a clone of T-Mobile US’ offer, one-upped by being available immediately.

Who had the idea first? That is the question.

(What’s that? If T-Mobile US was sitting on the “Unlimited Freedom” plans for so long, then why would it have launched its “Smart Fit” program, three weeks earlier? Oh, you mean the program that offered new customers its (old) unlimited data plan for one month at a $30 discount over the plan’s normal price, with the operator at the end of the period recommending which data bucket would best fit their needs? Well …)

Sprint continued to show its moxie with the “Premium” update that looked even more impressive when just a few days later T-Mobile US came out with its “Plus” move that was basically a pink-colored version of what Sprint did. Even better, T-Mobile US took the update to push up the availability of both offerings.

This all of course did not sit well with T-Mobile US, who under the guidance of CEO John Legere has been the carrier to one-up its rivals, and not the other way around. And, in announcing the “Plus” option and earlier availability, Legere seemed to make it a point to not acknowledge its smaller rival or hint that any of what T-Mobile US was doing was a reaction to Sprint’s moves.

(I am also going to assume the moves were in no way a reaction to T-Mobile US having to make sure it meets – or exceeds – its updated growth guidance for the year.)

Even better, Legere ratcheted up his attack on Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, going after those carriers’ offering too many choices for consumers and charging too much money for data.

And, I have to agree with those claims. There are too many choices out there that are too confusing and cost too much. I mean, what’s better than offering customers one option (or two) for a flat rate (or with extra-cost options that used to come as standard on old plans)? It’s just science.

Back to reality. I guess if I have just one issue with the rate plan rodeo, it’s that the names of the plan updates seem to be lacking a bit. I guess “Plus” and “Premium” are nice ways to indicate these options are something a little extra compared with the standard plans. But, why not throw in a bit more pizzazz?

Or better yet, co-op the name of your rival and really stick it to them.

Let chaos reign!

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