T-Mobile cuts its 3G prices by $10 per month for unsubsidized hardware: It's long been an irritation of cellular customers that even when they pay the full price of a phone or 3G modem, the monthly data charge remains the same as people who get a subsidized version. That's changing, with T-Mobile in the lead. T-Mobile cut its unsubsidized monthly fee for 3G service by $10 per month for its 200 MB and 5 GB plans.
Last month, T-Mobile dropped the monthly data cost for some smarpthones by $20 per month for people who purchase outright. The New York Times noted that the MyTouch 3G is $400 without subsidy or $150 with a two-year contact. The most basic voice and data plan is $60 per month for the unsubsidized phone or $80 per month with a subsidy--a $230 difference over two years.
The latest deal comes with the announcement of a ship date and price for the webConnect Rocket, an HSPA+ modem that works at a raw data rate of 21 Mbps. The new 3G service plans for 200 MB and 5 GB per month (combined upstream and downstream usage) will be $19.99 and $49.99 with a modem purchased at list price; the $29.99 and $59.99 remain in place for subsidized modems. The lower price also doesn't require a contract commitment.
T-Mobile sells its HSPA 7.2 webConnect modem for $129.99 retail and $19.99 with subsidy; that's a $110 difference upfront for $240 worth of savings over two years, plus the flexibility to cancel at any time.
Of course, T-Mobile also charges the highest rate for data overages: 20 cents per MB ($200 per GB) above the 200 MB or 5 GB limits of the plan. Virgin Mobile Broadband's prepay plan is $60 for 5 GB (used within 30 days), but an additional 5 GB is another $60 even within 30 days, while T-Mobile would add $1,000 to your bill for that privilege.
If T-Mobile wants to be truly progressive, it needs to sort out that discrepancy, designed to keep down usage rather than truly penalize subscribers. With HSPA+ offering potentially three times or greater the speed of the current network, limiting users to 5 GB and charging $20 per GB for overage seems very out of sync.
The Rocket, by the way, will cost 99.99 with a two-year contract; the outright purchase price wasn't announced.
Of course, the carriers have risks in carrying your subsidy over two years, plus early cancellations, the costs of churn, and so forth. By having you pay upfront, they don't carry the cost on their books, and it likely on average costs them less to handle you as a customer.