Live blog: The new T-Mobile’s first media event promises “bold” news

Source: Flickr / swruler9284

The newly minted T-Mobile promised to announce its “boldest moves yet” at a media event in New York City on Wednesday. GigaOM’s curiosity was piqued, and we were onsite covering the event when it kicked off at 230pm ET (1130am PT).

T-Mobile is apparently new at putting on these kinds of live events, because it allowed AllThingsD to post an interview with its CEO, John Legere, just before the event started revealing all the news: A new upgrade program that lets customers get new phones more often than other competitors appears to be the centerpiece of the announcement. The company also put out a press release, undercutting its own event. The company also announced that it would be carrying the Sony Xperia Z, which we reviewed here.

Kevin Tofel blogged at the event at Skylight West NYC, while Kevin Fitchard watched and commented from Chicago. Check out how the event unfolded below.

Kevin Fitchard 1:03:35 pm

Thanks for tuning in everyone. Looks like few of my predictions or guesses were right. A family plan, but no shared data plan. T-Mobile did tweak its plans and pricing with JUMP, though I admit I was surprised by the way it did so. We got our big LTE launch (more than we were promised), and previews of its new devices. And sorry MetroPC customers, no iPhone. Surprisingly John and company hardly mentioned Metro at all.

Kevin Fitchard 1:00:08 pm

They’re talking about cocktails upstairs, mentioning Carly will be there. I swear, whenever anyone mentions Carly, they turn into frat boys.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:59:15 pm

Legere gave a teaser for “un-carrier move 3″ in the near future, but no deets.

And that’s it for the event; we’re getting shuffled out of here for some device testing, food and drinks, plus time with T-Mo execs to chat about the news. Thanks!

Kevin Fitchard 12:57:00 pm

Neville Ray is pointing out that 3 to 4 Mbps at the office (what Kevin was getting at the office) is pretty good. I have to say he has a point. Admittedly huge dips and peaks in network performance are annoying but if a carrier is maintaining a multi-megabit connection even in a “hole” it’s not doing so bad. The question is whether the GigaOM office really a hole or just standard network performance.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:55:38 pm

So it turns out that T-Mobile considers an LTE market launched with roughly 60 to 80 percent coverage, which is why there will be some holes.

Kevin Fitchard 12:54:41 pm

Kevin T has been quiet because he’s asking a question. He wants to know why his LTE connection at the event was so fast but so much slower at the office.

Kevin Fitchard 12:51:50 pm

I like T-Mobile, but man I don’t think I could work there. I can’t wear that much pink. (excuse me, magenta)

Kevin Fitchard 12:49:51 pm

It was a pretty dumb move, IMO, for Verizon and AT&T to move the upgrade window from 20 to 24 months. It wasn’t really costing them that money (customers still had to finish their initial contracts), but it gives their competitors so much ammunition. Let’s face it, a two-year-old smartphone is ancient.

How often did you make fun of my HTC MyTouch, Kevin T?

Kevin Fitchard 12:46:38 pm

The other half of T-Mobile’s markets will have 5×5 MHz carriers, which is what Sprint runs today. Like I said earlier though, with far less customers T-Mobile will have more capacity to spare, so I wouldn’t expect its network to be only half as fast as Verizon or AT&T’s.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:46:09 pm

Kevin F, I’m starting to wonder. Signal strength is awfully good at -57 dBm.

Kevin Fitchard 12:45:00 pm

Kevin T, is there COW (cell on wheels) mooing behind the curtain?

Kevin Fitchard 12:44:11 pm

In context 10×10 MHz is the same size as AT&T and Verizon offer in nearly all markets. Keep in mind T-Mobile is tiny compared to those two there will be a lot of head room for those customers. If you live in a T-Mo 10×10 market you’re probably going to be seeing the 20 Mbps Neville Ray mentioned, not the 10 Mbps.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:43:55 pm

Interesting. My speedtest just now showed 67.15 Mbps down, 19.33 Mbps up and 43 ms latency. Oddly, I got about 3 to 4 Mbps at our office about 10 blocks away in NYC. Hmmm…..

Kevin C. Tofel 12:42:32 pm

Legere is talking about speeds up to 70 Mbps here in the building on LTE. I’m going to check right now with the Xperia Z. ;)

Kevin Fitchard 12:42:15 pm

Kevin C. Tofel 12:42:09 pm

Q: How many LTE markets are 10×10 or greater (regarding channel bonding). A: About half of them. And the plan is 20×20 later.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:39:27 pm

A question about the deductible on the Jump plan. A: Same as it works with our insurance today. Between $20 and $170 depending on device age and other factors.

Kevin Fitchard 12:38:42 pm

So I guess we’re not going to see T-Mobile’s first shared data plan at this event. The new family plans have a separate bucket of data for each device. I’m not too surprised since T-Mobile has panned AT&T and Verizon’s shared plans in the past. But given that it launched shared data for business I thought it was possibility.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:38:42 pm

We’re setting up for Q&A right now.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:37:55 pm

Now the Sony Xperia Z is being announced. Starting Wed., T-Mo will be the exclusive provider for it. $99 down, $20 a month. You can also buy it direct from Sony starting today for $579 or $0 and $25 a month through Sony credit services.

Again, here’s my review of the new phone:

Kevin Fitchard 12:36:36 pm

Kevin C. Tofel 12:35:51 pm

Simple Choice now for all families starting this Sunday. No contract and no credit checks. 4 lines for $100 with “unlimited” everything although each phone gets 500 MB of 4G data.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:34:44 pm

“Nearly 1/3rd of families are boxed out of discounts due to credit hassles and issues.”

Kevin C. Tofel 12:33:53 pm

Here comes some family plan news.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:33:16 pm

So T-Mo is giving away 730 Galaxy S 4 devices in the contest: One for each day of a 2 year contract.

Kevin Fitchard 12:33:14 pm

Kevin T, are you still here?

Kevin Fitchard 12:33:06 pm

Kevin C. Tofel 12:32:47 pm

Kevin Fitchard seems surprised that Kevin T raised a good point. Oh wait. I was just thinking that in my head and it came out on the blog. :)

Kevin C. Tofel 12:32:10 pm

#Hate2Wait is T-Mobile’s hashtag for the Jump program. Sounds like they’re looking for social network advertising help here. There’s a contest involved: Winners get a new Galaxy S 4.

Kevin Fitchard 12:32:09 pm

Ah, Kevin T raised a good point. The deal is centered around trade-ins, not devices that are completely busted.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:31:10 pm

Jump does have a deductible so if the phone you’re returning is broken, there may be a payment required.

Kevin Fitchard 12:31:02 pm

So say you buy an iPhone 5 today, but want to upgrade to whatever the new iPhone is called six months from now.

You pay $150 and $20 a month in installments for six months plus $10 a month for JUMP payments. That’s $330. You still have to pay full price or finance the new phone, but you don’t owe the remaining $300 or so on the old one.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:30:24 pm

“And you’ll never pay more for the hardware than a new customer,” says Sievert.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:29:50 pm

Yup, you can bring back your phone after 6 months and have the remaining payments forgiven. It’s like leasing for phones. Smart.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:28:58 pm

“Jump is un-carrier 2.0″ says Seivert. “Other carriers are going the other way: lengthening their contract upgrade cycle.” Jump protection is for malfunctions, loss, theft, damage or if you just want a new phone.

Kevin Fitchard 12:28:53 pm

So JUMP is beginning to make more sense. Technically customers are free to switch anytime they want because T-Mo has eliminated contracts. But what T-Mobile is saying its its forgiving your remaining financing payments. So you can buy a new phone before you finish paying for the last one

Kevin C. Tofel 12:27:15 pm

Mike Seivert, the Chief Marketing Officer, is now on stage.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:26:34 pm

Fine print of the ad says “Upgrade up to twice a year, after 6 months.”

Kevin C. Tofel 12:25:42 pm

There’s a new series of ads for Jump they’re now showing. They’re actually quite comical and on target.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:24:58 pm

Legere says AT&T and Verizon just went from 20 months of pi$$ing you off to 24: that’s the new upgrade time frames. But there’s no $10 a month. It’s an interesting proposition on if you think Jump is worth it. I think some folks will surely sign up but not sure a majority will. Still, it’s another “un-carrier”, bold move.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:23:31 pm

I wonder if the bean counters at T-Mo have figured out the likelihood of 2x upgrades a year for this extra revenue.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:22:50 pm

For $120 a year, that’s not a completely terrible deal because it gives you the freedom to upgrade. Of course you have to pay for the hardware still.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:22:11 pm

Up to 2x a year, you can do this upgrade. You pay $10 a month which includes protection / insurance for your phone.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:21:35 pm

JUMP is the new phone upgrade plan. You can upgrade when you want, not when you’re told to.

Kevin Fitchard 12:21:31 pm

Kevin C. Tofel 12:21:11 pm

“Two years is too long to wait. That’s 730 days of watching new phones arrive that you can’t have.” And this is why I buy (and later sell my) unsubsidized phones. ;)

Kevin C. Tofel 12:19:15 pm

So what happens when you drop or break your phone asks Legere. “It’s an oh s### moment”

Kevin Fitchard 12:18:04 pm

I agree with everything John is saying. But ultimately this argument doesn’t seem to work with consumers once you start talking $650 smartphones.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:16:53 pm

Legere says contracts should be 2-way. But in the industry, they are all about the carrier and greed. I agree.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:15:51 pm

A T-Mo press release just hit and there’s news of the new Sony Xperia Z with LTE on T-Mobile. Turns out I got one a few days ago and reviewed it here:

Note, I didn’t have LTE coverage so I’ll follow up later today with some usage testing.

Kevin Fitchard 12:15:47 pm

Kevin Fitchard 12:14:35 pm

It will be interesting to see how quickly Ray can put that MetroPCS spectrum into its LTE network. It could wind up with a much faster network than AT&T and Verizon at least initially while its unloaded.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:14:30 pm

Here comes the next un-carrier move, says Legere.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:13:44 pm

And Legere is back on stage saying that the fast network upgrades aren’t easy. It is impressive on how fast T-Mobile is moving on the network investments. But then again, it has to.

Kevin Fitchard 12:13:13 pm

Kevin C. Tofel 12:12:58 pm

Ray says we’re going to talk about the biggest customer pain point next. Rolling a video first… yup, there’s a message on screen about upgrading hardware…. let’s see how this plays out.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:12:05 pm

“The best iPhone in the U.S. is on T-Mobile”, says Ray. Bold claim!

Kevin Fitchard 12:11:33 pm

Notice Neville Ray is using a “frigging” instead of the true F word. He’s not quite as colorful as his boss.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:11:09 pm

Ray says they have a whole suite of LTE devices — one dozen — available. “There is no trade-off on LTE devices on T-Mobile.” Windows Phone, BlackBerry, iPhone and of course Android.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:09:57 pm

After the focus on Sprint, Ray is now talking about the fallbacks for AT&T and Verizon, both of which are slower. Now some discussion about devices, starting with the Galaxy S 4.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:07:59 pm

Average downloads for T-Mo LTE is 10 to 20 Mbps, says Ray. I’ll be testing in NYC after the event for sure.

Kevin Fitchard 12:07:18 pm

Neville Ray is using Sprint, not AT&T or Verizon, as the comparison point for its LTE network rollout. I definitely see how the comparison might be apt because of they were both later to LTE, but AT&T and Verizon are the ones to beat.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:07:15 pm

The message here is clear: We were late but now we have the tools, expertise and hunger to build a fast network.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:06:52 pm

Goal is nationwide LTE coverage for 200M POPs in 2013. Speeds will get faster and stronger because of the Metro PCS spectrum. Vegas already has combined T-Mo and Metro spectrum – done in 2 weeks, says Ray.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:05:33 pm

More details about the top 100 metro areas for LTE: In 73 of the top 100 markets. Sprint has 22, says Ray. “When Sprint says coverage is in Manhattan, they mean Manhattan, Kansas. We mean Manhattan, NYC.” Ouch!

Kevin Fitchard 12:04:47 pm

Kevin Fitchard 12:04:22 pm

Kevin C. Tofel 12:03:54 pm

Now in 116 metro areas. And Carly’s day is done… she’s off the stage. Must have a magenta motorcycle ride to catch.

Kevin Fitchard 12:03:38 pm

I suppose we should post some photos, though, so you can see what’s going on.

Kevin C. Tofel 12:03:13 pm

Now they’re flipping a virtual switch: New York, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, L.A., Seattle, and a bunch more with LTE. Whoa.

Kevin Fitchard 12:02:53 pm

Oh come on Neville… This is a bit corny

Kevin C. Tofel 12:02:23 pm

Here’s a special guest to flip the switch on new market launches today: It’s Carly Foulkes!

Kevin Fitchard 12:02:20 pm

157 Million! That’s impressive. The network only launched in April, and it’s more than half done. Maybe even more than 2/3rds done. T-Mobile keeps its coverage footprint smaller than the bigger operators

Kevin C. Tofel 12:01:27 pm

Ray is explaining that LTE on T-Mo only started 6 months ago and he’s comparing how long it took Verizon to get its full LTE network up. More of the “underdog” and fighting theme. Now at 157M POPs for LTE so June was a busy month for the network engineers.

Kevin Fitchard 12:00:21 pm

Kevin C. Tofel 11:59:48 am

Now an overview of the 1900 MHz refarming effort but no real details. “We have a big, growing 4G network”

Kevin C. Tofel 11:59:02 am

Ray says the modernization effort started in early 2012. 228 million POPs of HSPA+ 42 in the U.S. (which he called 4G – Oh, Neville!)

Kevin Fitchard 11:58:29 am

Legere is attacking Sprint as well, and Dan Hesse always has such nice things to say about T-Mobile

Kevin C. Tofel 11:57:46 am

Legere is now talking about falling short on the 100m POPs for mid-year. It’s an overblown miss. And here comes Neville Ray the CTO of T-Mo to discuss the network.

Kevin Fitchard 11:57:19 am

Yep, T-Mobile almost sounds like a startup. John Legere’s hatred of his competitors seems almost palpable

Kevin C. Tofel 11:56:49 am

“Network experience and customer experience is the true test. If it’s not right, you lose customers.”

Kevin C. Tofel 11:56:05 am

There’s so much “underdog” feeling here that it’s actually refreshing. Other carriers have come across as incumbents to their customers, which is not a good thing.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:55:27 am

Also No. 1 for net adds in LA, Houston, San Diego, Miami and D.C. I’ll be interested to see the source for that data, but again, this sounds good.

Kevin Fitchard 11:54:52 am

Kevin C. Tofel 11:54:27 am

In New York, T-Mobile had the most net customer adds recently. That’s a good sign and signals that the strategy has legs.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:53:31 am

Legere says data suggests that AT&T customers are simply waiting for their contract to expire before moving to T-Mobile. Anybody fit that category? Shout out in the comments.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:52:13 am

With the handset payment plans, credit apps have doubled lately. According to a Bear Stern report, 26 percent of switchers plan to go to T-Mobile; most other carriers have a single digit number.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:51:28 am

Legere now suggests that AT&T’s problem is that its customers hate the company and that it doesn’t listen to its customers. Personally I hear gripes about all of the carriers because there are so many variables.

“They’re fighting somebody that’s going to tell it like it is.”

Kevin Fitchard 11:50:59 am

I agree with John there. The industry has become broken in the way carriers sell and price services. And it’s become arrogant about its role.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:49:52 am

“We are going to redefine a broken, stupid and arrogant industry. Why? We’re listening to the customers.”

Kevin C. Tofel 11:49:14 am

“No contract was, is and will be huge… if you dare to do it. Unlimited is key and it just got started.”

Kevin C. Tofel 11:48:30 am

Talking about iPhones: “We sold a lot. But there were only 29 percent of total smartphone sales.” Interesting for the Android fans.

Kevin Fitchard 11:47:44 am

Kevin C. Tofel 11:46:43 am

“Our churn is as low as it’s ever been,” Legere says, indicating that the strategy is working.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:46:23 am

Sounds like this morning’s reports around the web for a better upgrade program are going to ring true.

Tom Krazit 11:45:58 am

Kevin C. Tofel 11:45:55 am

The whole un-carrier approach, he says is, tackling the customer pain points. “It’s a revolution. We’re responding to it. And the others cannot. We’re going to double-down today.”

Kevin C. Tofel 11:45:07 am

Here come the customer pain points, Legere says. Binding contracts, high device prices, upgrade restrictions, etc….

Kevin C. Tofel 11:44:25 am

He praised the commercial but says, “Give me a break.” The questions being asked are too simple and don’t represent the industry challenges. ” A lot of say and not a lot of do.”

Kevin C. Tofel 11:43:30 am

Yup, Legere is trying to standout from the industry here with some “common sense” strategies. Will they work? And I was right. The dolls are there for the AT&T ad approach. Bingo!

Kevin Fitchard 11:42:40 am

Well, John Legere’s shots at the industry would have a lot more meaning if T-Mobile’s strategy were actually working. It’s still too early today.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:42:37 am

BTW: I don’t see him looking at a teleprompter. He’s quite a charismatic and dynamic speaker to be honest.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:41:25 am

He’s now telling us about how he recently joined Twitter to help get the message out. Sounds like he has more jabs at the industry as a whole to share.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:40:18 am

Legere is talking about how the press tried to interpret the wording of this event invite. And now he’s telling us not to expect more f-bombs. Very humanizing.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:39:14 am

And John Legere, CEO of T-Mo, is on stage. Let’s see how many f-bombs get dropped *this* time.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:38:49 am

Lots of commentary from customers about the value of T-Mobile’s service. That’s pretty much been T-Mobile’s mantra: offering value.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:38:13 am

Now the video is showing customers explaining how they like the un-carrier moves.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:37:24 am

I think this video uses Beats Audio – my eardrums are popping.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:37:05 am

Big video playing now touting the un-carrier moves of getting rid of contracts.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:36:31 am

Lights are out!

Kevin C. Tofel 11:36:21 am

Kevin Fitchard 11:34:18 am

You should write “press” on the back of one your business cards and stick it in Sascha’s hatband

Kevin C. Tofel 11:33:12 am

For those that care about these kinds of things, the press is mostly using Mac laptops. A few Windows machines and iPads here and there. Of course, I’m using the Chromebook Pixel with LTE. (On Verizon’s network – don’t tell T-Mo)

Kevin C. Tofel 11:30:20 am

Also, I just noticed dolls sitting in the chairs on stage. Setup looks like the (clever) AT&T commercials with the kids… could we see a jab from T-Mo?

Kevin Fitchard 11:30:07 am

Now would be great time for a network latency joke, but I’ll abstain.

Hello Kevin T!

Kevin C. Tofel 11:29:13 am

That’s PC Mag’s Sascha Seegan rocking the fedora near the stage. He wins the best hat award.

Kevin C. Tofel 11:28:35 am

Kevin C. Tofel 11:26:52 am

We’re being treated to some Rolling Stones and a wall of magenta colored tweets…. from June. Guess nobody is tweeting about T-Mo right now?!?

Kevin C. Tofel 11:23:15 am

And after waiting in the rain for 30 minutes, we’re finally in the building, looking at a cozy little stage. Kudos to even staff for handing umbrellas as needed!


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