T-Mobile intros Data Stash, a rollover plan for unused gigabytes

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T-Mobile is flouting one of the biggest taboos of the mobile industry: The monthly data allotment. T-Mobile CEO John Legere on Tuesday announced a new program called Data Stash, which allows you to roll over unused data each month into a kind of 4G piggy bank and use it for up to a year if you exceed your normal data plan in a given billing period.

Typically you buy a mobile data plan that comes with a set number of gigabytes or megabytes each month, but whatever you have left over at the end of the billing cycle disappears into the ether. That’s left consumers with two equally unattractive propositions, Legere told Yahoo’s David Pogue in a webcast interview. Customers either lowball their monthly data usage and wind up paying overage fees or they overestimate their data use and often wind up with leftover gigabytes each month, Legere said.

Data Stash will let customers bank that unused data each month. After a year, saved data does expire – January’s unused data is good until the following January — but there doesn’t seem any limit on how much data you can store up. In fact, Legere said T-Mobile would seed every customer’s Data Stash with 10 GBs when they sign up.

“It’s your data,” Legere said. “What you don’t use, you don’t lose.”

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere at CES

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere at CES

Legere spent a lot of time bashing other carriers own practices of charging data overage fees and overselling data buckets, though T-Mobile until today perpetuated the same business model for much of its recent history as well. The difference is most of T-Mobile’s plans don’t come with overage fees or additional data purchase options. Instead T-Mobile currently throttles back bandwidth to 2G speeds for any customer who exceeds their data allotment in a billing cycle. When the new billing cycle begins speeds return to normal.

Smaller virtual operators like FreedomPop have launched data rollover programs in the past, and even [company]Verizon[/company] has experimented with rollover on its prepaid plans. But no major carrier has taken a data rollover program to such a level. Selling customers more data than they can use has been a classic way of milking more money from subscribers in recent years, just as selling consumers oversized voice minute buckets was they traditional ploy of the previous decade.

The announcement is part of T-Mobile’s evolving Uncarrier strategy — technically its 8th installment — in which T-Mobile has challenged many of the established norms of the mobile carrier business, including contract and subsidy programs and international roaming fees. What will be interesting to see is if other carriers follow in T-Mobile’s footsteps as they did with its Jump upgrade program and no-contract plans.

3 Comments

Rob Rubinoff

Interesting that T-Mobile is getting all kinds of attention today for this revolutionary plan, when all they did was copy what C Spire introduced last month. They weren’t the first to market, yet their uncarrier brand and high-falutin interviews w/ david pogue make it seem like they are real disrupters. http://cspire.com/rollingdata

Luscious

The BIG problem with TMO is that they still differentiate smartphone data from mobile hotspot data, rather than treating those bits and bytes the same. I like to tether, and while I don’t do it daily any more, it would be great to accumulate those unused geebees for when I DO INDEED need it.

All that said, I average roughly 50GB/month in data usage with my notebook. TMO is doing a disservice by capping their 4G data offerings at 21GB and not giving mobile road warriors and professionals a usable option. I want to do more than just check email, hit up text-based websites, and tweet random brain farts.

I want to enjoy my games on Steam, watch TV/movies on Hulu/Netflix, listen to music on Pandora, web chat on Skype, watch some guy on YouTube clean his garage, do all my software updates, download PDF’s and everything else NORMAL USERS DO ON THEIR NOTEBOOKS.

Can TMO give me that kind of mobile broadband freedom? Nope.

frank

thing about this, i do not see it saving anyone money. the plan line where this would really make a difference is on $50 plan with 1 or 2.5gb(on the 4lines/10gb deal) but those plan do not qualify. upgrade to the $60 and most people would never run out data anyways or if they do they need the full unlimited option. i do not see many benefiting from this without the bass level $50 plan included. although t-mo may benefit as more people pay $60+ month.

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