As a result of its planned merger with Sprint, T-Mobile plans to introduce its lowest-priced cell phone plan ever. The combined carrier will offer 2GB of high-speed data for $15 a month — half off the cheapest plan currently available through T-Mobile.
There's a catch, though. The low-cost T-Mobile Connect plan won't be available until the Sprint merger is completed. And that's unlikely to happen until sometime in 2020.
T-Mobile has won regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to complete its $26 billion merger with Sprint. But multiple state attorneys general are suing to block the deal, citing concerns over competition in the wireless industry. That trial is set to begin in December.
T-Mobile announced several initiatives today (Nov. 7) aimed at addressing those concerns while also ramping up pressure on opponents of the merger to sign off on the deal.
In addition to its low-cost data plan, T-Mobile also said the combined company would offer free 5G connectivity to first responders and connect 10 million underserved homes with free broadband for five years. Those initiatives require the higher-capacity network that would be created by combining T-Mobile and Sprint, however.
"This is the kind of difference this new combined company can make in the world," T-Mobile president and chief operating officer Mike Sievert said.
T-Mobile Connect: What you'll pay
Should the merger go through allowing T-Mobile and Sprint to become a combined carrier known as The New T-Mobile, executives say they'll be able to launch the T-Mobile Connect plan fairly quickly.
The plan will feature unlimited talk and text, plus 2GB of high-speed data for $15 a month. A second tier offers 5GB of data for $25. 5G service will be included at no additional cost, T-Mobile says.
An annual data-upgrade feature will tack on another 500GB of high-speed data to the plan every year for five years. In other words, in the second year of the plan, subscribers would get 2.5GB of data, and 3GB in the third year.
To put the T-Mobile Connect plan in context, the carrier's Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary currently offers a monthly prepaid plan with 2GB of data, but that costs $30 a month.
Other T-Mobile initiatives: Free broadband and first responders
T-Mobile Connect was designed with low-income customers in mind, though executives said the data plan would be open to anyone. Another new initiative planned for after the completion of the Sprint merger that's aimed at low-income families is Project 10 Million, in which T-Mobile is vowing to provide free broadband to 10 million households.
The goal with Project 10 Million is to better serve families with school-aged children who either don't have access to high-speed internet or can't afford it. Eligible homes will be able to get five years of free home service offering 100GB of data per year. T-Mobile will also provide a free mobile hotspot to Project 10 Million homes.
A third program, the Connecting Heroes Initiative, promises a 10-year commitment to make unlimited talk, text and data free for first responders at every public and non-profit state and local police, fire and emergency services agency.
T-Mobile is letting those agencies sign up now, though the Connecting Heroes program is dependent on the combined capacity of T-Mobile and Sprint.
5G network update
As for T-Mobile's 5G coverage, while the carrier has flipped the switch on millimeter-wave-based 5G in a handful of cities, it's planning a nationwide launch Dec. 6 that will cover 5,000 cities.
That launch will use the 600MHz spectrum, which isn't as fast as millimeter-wave but reaches further distances. T-Mobile says its 5G network will reach 450-Mbps speeds by 2024, a 10x improvement over its current LTE speeds.