T-Mobile announces Full Monty plans: unlimited everything

‘Unlimited’ is one of those words that seems to be wildly misinterpreted when it comes to the telecommunications industry. Whether it’s the ISP who says you have ‘unlimited’ downloads, but then reduces your speed above a certain amount, or the mobile operator that cheerfully sells you an ‘unlimited’ data plan with your new handset with a tiny fair usage policy attached, the reality of ‘unlimited’ tends to be… well, somewhat limited.

So when T-Mobile UK announced its new ‘Full Monty’ price plans, promising unlimited voice calls, text messages and data usage, we naturally expected there to be some discretionary limit, some cut-off point, some restriction on how or when you could use the minutes, texts and megabytes… but no, there appears to be no catch, no limit, nothing waiting to ruin your fun.


The plans

There are actually four Full Monty price plans in total. These are priced between £36 and £61 per month ($57-$96 USD / €43-€73 EUR); all four offer unlimited calls to other mobile networks (except for the £36pm plan, which limits this to 2000 minutes), unlimited calls to T-Mobile phones, unlimited text messages to all networks, and unlimited data.

The plans don’t really differ on features, as you can see from the chart above, and all of them are 24-month contracts. The difference in pricing therefore comes down to which handset you’d like, and whether you want to pay for it upfront, or over a longer period through a more expensive monthly plan.


Unlimited means unlimited

T-Mobile is going out of its way to emphasise the absence of any limits on this offering, which makes it a truly unique proposition in the UK marketplace. Currently, the Three and giffgaff networks both offer genuinely unlimited data for smartphones in the UK, but no operator currently provides a completely limitless experience, which is precisely what T-Mobile claims to be offering here.

There are no limits at all to how much data you can consume; there is no fair usage policy, no throttling, no restrictions – so you can stream or download music and video to your heart’s content. You can even tether your phone to other devices to allow them to use your phone’s unlimited data too, at no extra charge.

The company is unequivocal in this. Speaking with Pocket-lint, T-Mobile’s Ben Fritsch made sure he was absolutely clear when asked about the unlimited nature of the new plans: “There’s no fair usage cap – and you can use it for tethering as well.”
 


Image via Everything Everywhere


The demand for data

T-Mobile is certainly swimming against the flow with its new plans. The trend across the industry over the last couple of years has been to downplay the idea of ‘unlimited’, both in response to consumer frustration at the restrictions attached to so-called limitless plans, but also as service providers face the reality that the demand for data is soaring, as buyers increasingly flock to data-hungry smartphones and tablets.

The UK’s giffgaff network – part of Telefónica O2 – has experienced challenges in marketing a truly unlimited service; as The Next Web reports, the company recently revealed that 1% of users accounted for more than a third of data traffic across the entire network. Surely T-Mobile will face the same challenges in managing consumption of data? The company hopes to mitigate some of these issues through a partnership with BT Openzone, ensuring that all those on Full Monty price plans will get free and unlimited access to BT’s wi-fi hotspots across the UK. A new “T-Mobile Wi-Fi App” will help customers find BT and T-Mobile hotspots on the move, and will allow handsets to automatically join a supported wi-fi network if one is in range.

But even without this, Everything Everywhere – the company that jointly owns T-Mobile UK and Orange UK – has the country’s largest 3G network, and believes that its recent investments in network infrastructure will ensure that it can support any increase in data consumption.

But despite being under the same corporate umbrella, Orange UK customers shouldn’t necessarily expect a similar all-you-can-eat buffet being offered on their network too. Everything Everywhere’s then-CEO explained in 2010 that the two brands would become more differentiated, with T-Mobile focusing on its “straightforward value-orientated appeal”, and Orange retaining the “premium element” of its brand positioning.


What about T-Mobile US?

The Full Monty plans are a clear response to T-Mobile's competitors in the UK, and with mobile operators in the US rapidly backing away from the idea of 'unlimited' in favour of selling data bundles and packages at a fixed rate, it's fair to say that T-Mobile US doesn't have the same competitive influence that has encouraged Everything Everywhere to launch its new unlimited plans in the UK.

That said, Deutsche Telekom - which owns half of Everything Everywhere - might want to consider something as drastic as the Full Monty plans in the US. The company put an awful lot of eggs into the AT&T merger basket, and although it got a substantial settlement agreement when the deal collapsed, it still faces a patchy network that's in need of upgrade and expansion, an absence of killer devices (which have been hoovered up by its larger rivals), and still no iPhone. Given the extraordinary statistic that 80% of all smartphone sales at AT&T were iPhones last quarter, that's clearly a big gap in their offering.

A truly unlimited deal might just be the kind of differentiator that T-Mo US needs to make it relevant to buyers again, but there remains the question of whether its HSPA+ network could cope with the massive increase in demand. For now, though, don't expect anything, and you won't be disappointed.

As far as T-Mobile's European operations go, it will largely come down to the competitive landscape in each market; each country in which T-Mo operates in Europe is largely autonomous when it comes to setting price plans and stocking particular devices. If there's no competitive imperative to rock the boat with groundbreaking new price plans in Poland or Slovakia, then it's unlikely that T-Mobile will want to shake things up with new flat-rate all-you-can-eat tariffs, which may limit potential revenues prematurely.

T-Mobile's Netherlands operation actually experienced major 3G network congestion as a result of increased smartphone data usage, as recently as 2010. Ars Technica reported at the time that T-Mobile Netherlands was forced into issuing costly refunds to customers for months of data usage.

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Brilliant plans tbh, and i havent had any issues with T-Mobile 3G speeds using my iPhone 4S, Ive used it all day as a personal hot spot because the internet in the office was down, steady as a rock, never disconnected all day and browsed the web fine.

T-Mobile iPhone Support in the UK are great to, all English speaking which is a bonus.

I'm on Virgin (former employee) who use T-Mobile's network and oddly enough, I don't have half the issues people above are describing. Speeds are decent as well, I can even stream HD youtube while on the train without having to buffer a huge amount. I think it's all relative to where you live, though.

Everything everywhere might own the two companies giving it the largest 3G network but their speed is terrible.
The best speed I can get on Orange in my "Excellent 3G coverage" home is less than 56k if I go to the pub just up the road I can maybe get faster, but not by much
So if its unlimited great, but what good is it if your service is poor? and you can't use it?
T Mobile are possibly doing this after ****ing off most of the Orange customers by price rising even on new contracts that were only a few months old.
Be lucky if they have any customers left for Orange, but I suspect thats the plan - get them to move from Orange to T Mobile and then close Orange

Teebor said,

T Mobile are possibly doing this after ****ing off most of the Orange customers by price rising even on new contracts that were only a few months old.
Be lucky if they have any customers left for Orange, but I suspect thats the plan - get them to move from Orange to T Mobile and then close Orange

Wasnt Orange who bought T-Mobile? So how can the orange brand get closed down?

I haven't any issues with 3G speeds barring when the phone switches between T-Mobile and Orange and I only get 2G data speeds

Teebor said,
Everything everywhere might own the two companies giving it the largest 3G network but their speed is terrible

This is why I moved to 3 and their SIM only plan with unlimited data. That, plus T-Mobile use a crappy proxy that mashes images and reorders HTML content which annoys me considerably (and you can't turn it off).

Swiftie said,

Wasnt Orange who bought T-Mobile? So how can the orange brand get closed down?

They' both should be closing down eventually and being re-branded into the Everything Everywhere brand.

good case study to see if the network grinds to a screeching halt making it basically unusable when they allow this to happen. My guess is that it will. Still, it is outstanding value while it lasts to even subsidise high value handsets with those prices.

Simon- said,
good case study to see if the network grinds to a screeching halt making it basically unusable when they allow this to happen. My guess is that it will. Still, it is outstanding value while it lasts to even subsidise high value handsets with those prices.

Sprint is a good case to study.

My friend gets 0.15 Mbps download.

day2die said,

Sprint is a good case to study.

My friend gets 0.15 Mbps download.

CDMA technology is not fast by its very nature, and Sprint is not known to be the most widespread network either, which limits their bandwidth in bad areas further. Furthermore, my usage never changed going between my original unlimited data plan, down to my current 2 GB data plan (my employer discount did not apply to unlimited and 2 GB was already cheaper and more data than I need, which is also why I will not be "upgrading" to 3 GB anytime soon). I suspect that others have not changed either.

All of that is to say, my data speeds never really had any issues with AT&T, unless I fell into 2G ("EDGE") areas. They just never got better until they finally started upgrading their network. My dropped calls did increase for awhile, which was likely also related to my iPhone at the time, until they started to reinvest and add capacity to the towers as well as new towers.

At least for 3G, the technology definitely exists to support users dependent solely on the towers, rather than bandwidth. In extremely dense, high population areas, this does falter because of the radio signals and a lack of towers (which can take a bureaucratically long time to put up) rather than the backbone that supports them.

day2die said,

Sprint is a good case to study.

My friend gets 0.15 Mbps download.

Interesting, I get about 300k - 500k average on 3g, and 6 - 8 Mbps in good areas with 4g.