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T-Mobile goes after businesses with simplified pricing plans

Prices for each line range between $10 and $16 depending on the number of accounts. T-Mobile is also bundling a free domain and Microsoft Office 365 services for any company paying for additional data.

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T-Mobile CEO John Legere at the Uncarrier 9.0 event. Sarah Tew/CNET

NEW YORK -- T-Mobile is turning its Uncarrier hindsights onto the business world.

The nation's No. 4 (or No. 3, T-Mobile has argued) wireless carrier on Wednesday unveiled Uncarrier 9.0: a simplified pricing plan for business customers looking to bundle a large number of phone lines. The plans cost $16 a line for 10 to 19 lines, $15 for 20 to 1,000 lines, and $10 a line after 1,000 accounts.

The plans include unlimited voice calls and text messages, as well as 1 gigabyte of high-speed data. Individual lines can upgrade to add 2 GB of data for $10 more, or move to unlimited data for $30. Companies can also opt to buy a bucket of shared data ranging from 100 GB for $475 a month to 1 TB for $4,250. The plans were unveiled at a press conference here.

While T-Mobile's Uncarrier campaign has shaken up the options available to consumers over the past two years, the Bellevue, Wash., company has done little to address the needs of business customers, many of whom choose the same service provider as the one powering their company-issued smartphone. T-Mobile hopes to change that with its new plans, which it argues strip away hidden fees and overage charges that can be found in rival offerings.

"This has got to hurt," CEO John Legere said in an interview about the potential impact on competitors. "It's beautiful; it's opening a whole new discussion."

Legere compared the dynamic between business customers and carriers to the same kind of frustration consumers felt before his Uncarrier campaign rolled out. "As a minimum, those customers are walking in tomorrow to AT&T and Verizon and doing a little math," he said.

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T-Mobile's Uncarrier 9 event about to begin. Sarah Tew/CNET

T-Mobile is sweetening the offer by including a free domain and website through GoDaddy, as well as a free custom .com e-mail address powered by Microsoft Office 365 for any business line that has additional paid data. GoDaddy offers similar services on its own for $1 a month for the first promotional year, with regular fees at $12 a month. The e-mail-centric version of Office 365 costs $5 a month.

The carrier is also tying the program back to personal family plans through its Business Family Discount program, which allows you to count your business line as the first line on a family plan, yielding more savings because the first line of that plan is the most expensive. Roughly 72 percent of customers choose the same carrier as the one provided by an employers, the company found in its own household survey.

T-Mobile hasn't always had the best track record with business customers. The carrier irked a lot of subscribers nearly a year ago when it attempted to kill off its long-standing corporate discount program, only to do an about-face and let customers keep their lower rate plans (the discounts are no longer available to new customers). Legere chalked up the reaction to people incorrectly viewing how they should be paying for their business lines.

"It was amazing to see the reactions of people," Legere said. "The test is to get the prices low enough for everybody. It should have been clear that those discounts are fake."

The business environment will be a much tougher slog for T-Mobile than the consumer world, where individuals or even families can easily switch. Larger carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless have an entrenched position in big business, selling not just wireless service, but a myriad of other cloud, infrastructure and landline services as well. A decision to change carriers would require a wholesale switch of hundreds, if not thousands, of lines and smartphones.

With the slowdown of the traditional consumer wireless business, the other companies are looking to big business for growth. AT&T even reorganized its company to combine its enterprise and mobility businesses under Ralph de la Vega to better sell a package of services to customers. Sprint on Monday unveiled a program to help businesses manage remote workplaces and communications tools.

T-Mobile sees the biggest opportunity in the small- and medium-sized businesses, which Legere said makes up a vast majority of businesses in the US. He added he believes the combined effect of the savings on the business side and on the consumer side through the Business Family Discount program could drive a move to the carrier.

"The duopoly has been looking at business as a cozy place that they can retreat to because of the hyper-competitiveness in the consumer space," T-Mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert said in an interview. "We're putting an end to that today with Uncarrier 9 business unleashed."