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Summary:

Had I asked this question two or three years ago, the answer would likely have been a no. But much has changed in a short time for T-Mobile which now has fast LTE, improved coverage and more spectrum. Now it just needs more customers.

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere

Invites for T-Mobile’s Consumer Electronics Show press event are hitting inboxes and speculation is that the carrier will announce a new strategy to get you on its network. As part of its “Uncarrier” effort, the idea would be that T-Mobile would pay the contractual Early Termination Fee (ETF) from your current carrier so you could switch to T-Mobile which no longer has contracts. The rumored plan is dubbed “Houdini” says the TMoNews blog.

t-mobile CES 2014

I have my invite and I’ll be on-site to hear what the carrier has to say on January 8. The news could be the payoff of existing contracts or something else entirely. It’s interesting to consider the possibility of the network operator paying off contracts in order to boost its subscriber count. Two or three years ago, it would have been far less interesting, however.

As other U.S. network providers were building out LTE networks, T-Mobile stayed the course with HSPA+ technology. In some cases, HSPA+ can be nearly as fast as today’s LTE mobile broadband speeds, but in general, it’s not quite as cutting edge. Coverage outside of major cities has been an issue as well for the carrier. So what has changed that could actually get people to consider switching to T-Mobile?

iPad Air T-Mobile

For starters, T-Mobile has aggressively implemented LTE across the U.S. with 203 million people in 254 markets covered by LTE; just eight months after the rollout began. Last month, T-Mobile doubled speeds in 40 of the top 50 metro markets and it plans to double down again in 2014. It certainly helps that T-Mobile gained a nice chunk of spectrum as a concession from the failed AT&T deal, allowing it to boost speeds and coverage. The carrier also gained key airwaves through its Metro PCS merger.

All of a sudden then — two years is pretty quick when it comes to carrier infrastructure — T-Mobile has a relatively formidable network with better coverage than it did before. Combine that with services unbundled from device hardware, no contracts and a clever phone upgrade program and you’ve got a recipe for adding customers.

Contracts then — the ETFs for them, to be more precise — may be the the biggest currently hurdle in switching from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint to T-Mobile. And if the planned January 8 event does remove that hurdle by having the carrier paying customers to switch, it could drive a fair number of customers to do just that.

Again, we don’t know if this is what T-Mobile plans. And if this happened two years ago, the answer to “would you switch?” would likely be a no for most people.

This isn’t the same T-Mobile as 2011 though, so what do you think: If the company is willing to pay off your ETF, will you make the move?

  1. Yes, I will switch all three lines I have with Sprint immediately that day.

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    1. You can’t ‘switch’ your existing Sprint lines. You’ll need to purchase new devices with compatible radio technology. Same with Verizon customers. At&t users can keep their current devices if they can get them unlocked.

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  2. Nope, I have been with Sprint for years…I suffered through the years when they had the WORST customer service (since VASTLY improved), and I am willing to stick with them another year to see how the network behaves once their “Network Vision” upgrades are complete. My contract is up in August, so they have until then to get Western Washington finished and up to snuff…but if they aren’t done by then, I would consider switching. I am planning on buying a Nexus 5 through Google soon, so it would be even easier for me to switch service over to T-Mobile (the only other carrier I would even CONSIDER using!) if things havent improved. I am betting though, that not only will the coverage and network speeds improve, but that with the 800Mhz and 2500Mhz spectrum (from NexTel and Clearwire respectively), in addition to their 1900Mhz spectrum, they should have the fastest network out there once everything is running! We will see….

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    1. The thing is Sprint Spark requires that 2500mhz band that isn’t going to cut through your typical building. Their 800mhz LTE will have great building penetration but speeds won’t be anything great since its such a small amount of spectrum

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    2. I like the Sprint Customer service. I don’t like paying for data that i cannot use. Moving to t-mobile will save me about $2500 over a typical 2 year contract.

      FYI, AFAIK, you cannot use a Sprint Phone on T-Mobile (maybe the N5 does but … )

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  3. I switched from ATT to T-Mobile about three months ago. Based on the trade in I got for my iPhone 5 moving to the 5s, and the remaining time I had to pay off ATT, I came ahead $50 just up front. Not to mention my plan was about $70 less than with ATT. Service has been as good or better than with ATT, in fact I don’t think I’ve dropped a call yet since switching. LTE can be a little sketch and when I’m at the office (which is rare) I have no signal on the 1st floor though my office is on the 3rd floor). Other than that I’m 100% pleased. I do live in a metro area though so maybe my service is better.

    T-Mobile is doing a good job of shaking up the market, it needs it.

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  4. I would not switch since T-Mobile has no coverage in this part of Silicon Valley (Menlo Park, CA). Sprint is not much better, signal strength of zero or one bar, poor sound quality, dropped calls, repeated denial that there is any problem. Only Verizon and AT&T work here.

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    1. Rob, you (and your wallet) have my sympathy.

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  5. Yes I would.

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  6. Yes, definitely! The ETF is the only thing holding me back from moving my iPhone 5 from AT&T to T-Mobile..

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  7. This would be the ultimate b-slap to the other carriers. More power to T-Mobile. Anyone living in a metropolitan area should not even consider any other carrier, as T-Mobile offers great speeds and much more affordable pricing. As with all technology, I am glad to see how T-Mobile had grown as a company, for the better.

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  8. i have a feeling the big losing carrier here will be sprint, than if sprint buys t-mobile everyone’s back to sprint again. the news of a possible t-mobile buyout makes this much less attractive since the great value aspect of t-mobile will likely disappear post merger/buyout.

    at&t and verizon should be allowed to merge since they already pretty much offer the same coverage, pricing, etc. this would open room for both t-mobile and sprint to grow. it is the smaller leaner carriers that compete with disruptive pricing and innovative rate plans that should never be allowed to be bought up.

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  9. I’ve already switched from Verizon and will save at least $30 per month by jumping on a shared plan, even with the monthly payments for the hardware. The coverage is just as good in DC, so I’m a happy camper.

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  10. Would switch the moment they offered. Long term AT+T customer that switched to sprint because of the AT+T price increases and increasingly poor customer service. sprints network here sucks. Also would love the much better choice of hardware being on T-Mobile would offer.

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