T-Mobile unleashed a number of headline-grabbing announcements yesterday, but now that the pink dust has settled and Shakira's wild mane has faded from view, how do the Un-carrier's latest moves stack up in the light of day?
We spoke with a pair of analysts to get their read on T-Mobile's nationwide 4G LTE roll out, free unlimited international data and text offer, new flat global calling rate and $10/month fee for calls outside the US. The consensus between the two was the nation's No. 4 carrier is firing on just about every cylinder.
"I was quite impressed with the news that T-Mobile is now reaching more than 200 million subscribers with 4G LTE in basically less than nine months," said Roger Entner, founder and analyst at Recon Analystics, in an interview.
"That's attacking both AT&T and especially Verizon on network superiority. T-Mobile is taking a knock at the sweet spot of the two big carriers, which is better service."
In press materials, T-Mobile claimed to best AT&T in 4G LTE coverage in 10 of the top 20 metropolitan statistical areas as well as beating out Sprint and Verizon network speeds.
Weston Henderek, principle analyst for wireless service at Current Analysis, said that while T-Mobile is still a small fish in the 4G pond, it's put at least one competitor against the wall.
"AT&T and Verizon still have way more LTE than T-Mobile," he said. "Verizon is almost fully deployed and have had a big lead for a long time. T-Mobile is really playing the catch-up game.
"The average customer already understands that AT&T and Verizon have more, but that advantage is dissipating. When you talk about 300 markets compared to 233, some of that advantage is just naturally going to disappear.
"The one here that I think is going to have to step up their game is Sprint. They rolled out LTE before T-Mobile, and now they're lagging. This might spur them on to increase their roll out speeds."
Roamin', roamin', roamin'
As for its new international usage policies, which apply to more than 100 "Simple Global" countries and, both analysts affirmed that this push is principally about grabbing business customers.
"T-Mobile didn't really have a lot to lose here," said Henderek. "They don't have a lot of business customers, and the majority of international roaming is done by business customers. The bulk are at AT&T and Verizon, but the risk reward isn't there for those two because they risk losing that revenue stream. T-Mobile isn't really losing anything.
"Overall this should really help out on the business side because it's such a big difference in how business works from AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile could end up poaching customers from them because it allows businesses to control cost and there's no fear of going over."
T-Mobile does expect to operate its new data and text plans and $0.20/minute flat calling rate at a loss, at least to start, but the hope is to make up some revenue in boost packages - $15 for one day and 100MB, $25 for one week and 200MB and $50 for two weeks and 500MB.
Henderek explained that even if non-business customers end up spending the same amount as they would on another carrier's international plan by buying boost packages, the perception is they are saving money and don't have to worry about overage charges. Once that $25 data is gone, it's gone.
Both he and Entner said the other carriers are going to have to respond to T-Mo's new international policies.
"They have to respond somehow ... better network, more marketing, responding price plans ... and in the end the customer wins in this competitive market," Entner said.
According to Entner, about one third of what businesses pay for wireless usage is overseas use, "so the savings with T-Mobile can be quite substantial."
What's more, the analyst said the offer targets immigrants who might leave the country regularly and more affluent customers who take trips abroad more frequently. While users who don't fall in these camps may not flock to T-Mobile's new offers, there is still plenty of growth potential with these other groups.
It's not all roses
Not everything about T-Mobile's new offers are perfectly peachy. International data speeds will top out at about 128 kilobits a second, meaning viewing an email with a large attachment or visiting a graphics-heavy site will be a challenge.
Henderek speculated T-Mobile struck deals with international roaming partners to use low-speed data at a cheaper rate. This, he said, creates a win for partners because the data wasn't being used by travelers who may have preferred turning off their phones to incurring enormous roaming fees.
Throw in the data speed boost packages and international partners are seeing yet more new revenue.
Henderek did call out T-Mobile's new Stateside International Talk & Text plan, which for $10 a month has the same $0.20/minute call rate (including mobile-to-mobile) to qualifying countries plus unlimited texting and unlimited landline calls in more than 70 countries for no extra charge.
"Looking at the US market, there are all sorts of VoIP service providers - Skype, Viber, etc. - that offer cheap and free long distance calls," he said.
"The package looks really good when compared to other carrier packages, and you can call someone with a regular phone service and not have to worry about that person having the same app as you. There is definitely a convenience factor, but the international long distance side of things is not really a big a deal as it would have been a few years ago."
We've asked AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to comment for this story and will update if we hear anything back.