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T-Mobile launches low-cost data plan in response to coronavirus

(Image credit: T-Mobile/YouTube)

The coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout it's causing are pushing T-Mobile to get a head start on offering a new low-cost smartphone plan. Starting this Wednesday (March 25), T-Mobile plans to launch its $15-a-month T-Mobile Connect plan, which provides 2GB a month alongside unlimited talk, text and data.

T-Mobile Connect broadens the carrier's assortment of plans beyond unlimited data, which starts at $60 a month for the T-Mobile Essentials plan. It also halves the cost of the cheapest plan you can currently get through T-Mobile or its various entities, a $30-a-month 2GB plan available through the Metro By T-Mobile prepaid service.

T-Mobile first announced T-Mobile Connect last November at a time it was trying to clear the last remaining legal hurdles for its proposed merger with Sprint. T-Mobile Connect was to have launched once the T-Mobile-Sprint merger was finalized, but neither wireless carrier expects that to happen before April — perhaps longer, now that the COVID-19 outbreak has ground the economy to a halt.

The economic slowdown is the reason for the early launch of the new T-Mobile Connect plan, the company says. "Right now, having a reliable, low-cost connection is absolutely crucial for Americans, and with many facing financial strain, time is of the essence. We knew we couldn’t wait for the merger to finalize to launch T-Mobile Connect, our lowest priced smartphone plan, so we’re rolling out ahead of schedule,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere in a statement announcing the new plan. “With T-Mobile Connect, we’re giving those hardest hit an even more affordable way to stay in touch. Half the price of our lowest-ever priced smartphone plan. So everyone can stay connected.” 

In addition to the 2GB tier, T-Mobile Connect includes a 5GB allotment of LTE data for $25 a month. To put that plan in context, Verizon's 5GB plan for a single line of data costs $55 a month after a $5 discount for autopay. T-Mobile's prepaid Metro subsidiary already offers a 10GB plan for $40 per month.

T-Mobile says that Connect is a prepaid plan. Presumably, that means your data speeds could be slowed should T-Mobile's network get congested. However, that's a common tradeoff when you opt for prepaid cellular service.

Launching its T-Mobile Connect plan before the Sprint merger closes isn't the only change T-Mobile is making in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The company says its weekly T-Mobile Tuesdays customer appreciation program will include two months of YouTube Premium starting tomorrow (March 24). YouTube Premium is an $11.99-a-month service that includes ad-free videos and the ability to play videos in the background, among other perks. T-Mobile Tuesdays will also include a free four-week online learning course provided by Shaw Academy.

In addition, Metro by T-Mobile will adjust its plans to cut the monthly rate on its 2GB plan to $15. Currently, that plan costs $30. The price change goes into effect this Wednesday, as the T-Mobile Connect plan launches.