T-Mobile CEO hints at family plan disruption in 2014

T-Mobile USA may soon offer family plan consumers an incentive to ditch their current providers for T-Mobile as part of its "UnCarrier 4.0" strategy, according to a tweet from CEO John Legere.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read
T-Mobile's CEO John Legere shared his New Year's resolution on the company's blog. T-Mobile

T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere gave his Twitter followers a hint of what to expect from the company's next phase of its "UnCarrier" strategy in a post about New Year's resolutions.

In a picture he tweeted on New Year's day, Legere showed his New Year resolutions for 2013 and 2014 and offered a glimpse into what people can expect from the carrier in 2014.

In his 2013 list, he ticked off the carrier's many accomplishments, such as eliminating contracts, introducing an early upgrade program, giving away tablet data for free, expanding its 4G LTE network, and eliminating roaming charges for international travelers.

As for the 2014 resolutions, Legere didn't offer specific details. He reiterated the company's mantra of shaking up the wireless industry by eliminating "customer pain points." He joked about letting up on his jibes against AT&T. And he noted that the company will continue to push forward with its 4G LTE network.

He also offered a small hint as to the next phase of the UnCarrier strategy. Specifically, Legere listed "unschackling families from the other guys."

There's already been some speculation that the so-called UnCarrier 4.0 plan, which Legere teased in another tweet just before the holidays, could be focused more on families. Perhaps, T-Mobile will offer to defray or even pay the cost of early termination fees for customers on family plans who are looking to ditch their current providers.

Switching multiple people on the same plan from one operator to another is a big headache for families who often have different end dates for their contracts. Offering customers a way to pay off their early termination fee penalty to start a family plan with T-Mobile could entice many new, high-value customers to jump ship for T-Mobile.

T-Mobile is expected to make its UnCarrier 4.0 announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week. And the industry will be looking closely at T-Mobile's plans.

T-Mobile shook up the wireless industry
The company did indeed stir up the industry in 2013 through its aggressive initiatives. AT&T and Verizon Wireless followed T-Mobile's lead with the introduction of new early upgrade programs. And AT&T revised its pricing to give customers buying their own devices a discount on their monthly service.

It seems that T-Mobile's strategy is working well for the carrier. In the third quarter of 2013, the company reported it had signed up a total of 1 million new customers. About 648,000 of these customers were highly valuable, so-called postpaid customers, who tend to have stronger credit history and are willing to pay more each month. In total, T-Mobile ended the quarter with 45 million customers.

The company's executives have said again and again that the company is not yet finished.

But the one thing that Legere didn't mention in his New Year's resolutions is a potential takeover bid from rival Sprint. In the last month of the year, rumors of a potential $19 billion offer to buy T-Mobile circulated throughout the industry. While it makes sense why the fledgling Sprint would be interested in T-Mobile, it's hard to see why T-Mobile, which has been gaining customers and winning rave reviews for its initiatives, would want to be acquired by Sprint, especially at a price tag that is more than half of what AT&T offered in its bid two years ago.

That said, T-Mobile is owned by the German phone company Deutsche Telekom, which has made no bones about its hope to exit the US market. Still, many analysts believe a deal between T-Mobile and Sprint is a long shot from a regulatory standpoint. Regulators already rejected one takeover bid for the company. And recent comments from top officials at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department suggest that regulators would like to see T-Mobile continue to compete as an independent company rather than be gobbled up by a competitor.