We have seen so many changes happen within the industry in the past two years, especially in regards to the relationship between carrier and consumer. Just a few short years ago it would have seemed that each carrier was set in their ways for the long haul; each of them shared similar sets of rules, all of which had intricate ways of essentially “trapping” the consumer into a two-year contract with the carrier. Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all enforced two-year contracts, early termination fees, and heavily encouraged the purchase of subsidized phones.
However, just because each major carrier in the U.S. was on the same page about the relationship between carrier and consumer doesn’t mean that they shared equal numbers of subscribers. Verizon Wireless and AT&T had a much higher level of subscribers than Sprint and T-Mobile, and considering how saturated the mobile market was (and is) it seemed as though this was how things would be for a long time… that was, until T-Mobile decided that they were tired of being so close to the bottom, and instead of throwing in the towel or merging with another company, T-Mobile found a way to make things work – and not just for T-Mobile customers.
At some point, T-Mobile CEO John Legere decided that customers needed a change. He was the first to break the mold and take into consideration what the consumer wanted to see. Whether it was out of sympathy or solely used as a business tactic, Legere’s “Un-Carrier” initiative quickly became the talk of the town as two-year contracts were explained and essentially eliminated with the JUMP! Program – which was quickly followed by similar programs on other carriers. We weren’t really sure what was happening, but it was pretty awesome. More importantly, it didn’t stop there.
The months would pass and T-Mobile, under the command of Legere, would make more and more strides to improve the state of the industry. Free tablet data, free music streaming, and paid ETFs are just some of the ways T-Mobile has started to reshape this industry. Whether you actually use T-Mobile service or not doesn’t matter, because what they started sparked a chain reaction in other carriers as well (at least in part).
When today we learned that T-Mobile was going back to its first step in the Un-Carrier initiative and revising its JUMP! Plan to be called JUMP! On Demand, I knew that T-Mobile had another winning move on their hands. Without having to put any money down (not even sales tax) on devices, abolishing the $10 fee to participate in JUMP!, and including the ability to trade your leased phone up to 3 times in a year is… pretty much all anybody could ever ask for, especially when you’re a serial phone switcher. Maybe you won’t own the phone, but if you take advantage of all three trades each year the trade-off is certainly worth considering.
But as amazing as the revamped JUMP! Program is, I feel like T-Mobile still has a big risk of failure in the near future.
Despite all that T-Mobile has done, the issue of T-Mobile’s networks is still a very prevalent issue. For the most part, T-Mobile service is only reliable in major metropolitan areas of the U.S. Rural areas are spotty at best. Many customers feel that quality service takes priority over anything else, and reasonably so. Without it, T-Mobile is missing out on a big chunk of the market.
Fortunately, there’s time for that to change.
The Federal Communications Commission will be holding an auction next year over wireless spectrum, the technology needed to for basic cellular service like texting, cellular data, and phone calls. If T-Mobile can manage to snag more spectrum in rural areas, they might seriously begin to make their way towards the likes of AT&T and Verizon. Obviously there are three other carriers that are equally as interested – if not more so – in obtaining this spectrum for their own businesses, but I can’t help but root for T-Mobile at this point.
Everything else at this point is fluff. T-Mobile has done a fantastic job reshaping the industry, but the last remaining problem that needs to be solved is entirely reliant on whether T-Mobile can snag up the spectrum it needs or not next year. Without it, I feel like T-Mobile will be able to do very little to convince more people to join up with the Un-Carrier in the droves that they need to truly compete with Verizon and AT&T.