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T-Mobile 4G LTE Network Goes Live in Eight Major Cities, Touts Impressive Speeds

T-Mobile LTE Towers Activated

[Photo Credit: The Verge]

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: yes, T-Mobile has officially switched on its LTE towers in eight major cities as of Friday, March 22, 2013. If you live in one of the following cities and are a T-Mobile customer, you should be seeing faster speeds on your smartphone:

1) Houston
2) Baltimore
3) New Orleans
4) Phoenix
5) Washington, DC
6) San Jose
7) Kansas City
8) Las Vegas

So far, according to OpenSignal, an app that provides info on available wireless coverage, smartphones are seeing 8Mbps upload and 25Mbps download speeds. Keep in mind, however, that these speeds are only impressive initially. As of this moment, there are not a lot of T-Mo customers on LTE; once T-Mo turns on more LTE towers throughout the coming months, LTE speeds may vary according to geographic location and population density. Also, there are only three smartphones (GS3, GS4, and GNote2) undergoing LTE testing, so other smartphones will vary in terms of their upload and download speeds. We have no official details yet about iPhone upload and download speeds — although this is a necessity for T-Mo if it plans to sell the iPhone 5S this summer.

The Deutsche Telekom carrier is set to unveil its new “uncarrier” plans this coming Tuesday, March 26, 2013. According to leaked information from renown sources, we know that T-Mobile’s new uncarrier plans will start at $50 for voice and texting plans. To get unlimited data, you will need to add another $20 (for a total of $70); if you want to use more data, you will have the option of selecting a data plan that provides up to 12.5GB of data each month for an additional $60. When you add the 12.5GB of data (for the data-hungry user) to the $50 voice and texting plan, you arrive at only $110 for the entire package. This is still far cheaper than AT&T’s plans — which do not have unlimited data plans and come with a starting price tag of $85-90 (cheapest option, with a 3GB data limit). No wonder AT&T issued such mudslinging ads against T-Mobile! For those who do not want to go over the $50 voice and texting plan, you will receive a free 500MB of data each month. T-Mo upgraded me to 500MB from the former 100MB of free data it used to give; however, I recently bumped up to T-Mo’s truly unlimited 4G plan for a total of $70 each month (with no data throttling, taxes, fees, or surcharges).

To be clear, many consumers have heard about T-Mobile ending its contract agreements and want to know: “What’s the difference between a prepaid and value plan?” Value plans will allow you to do what you did under contract plans without contract obligations; in other words, you will be allowed to pay for the full price of your phone over each month (a little at a time, added to your phone bill for a monthly fee) without forking over the entire phone price at once. However, the added cost will also make your monthly phone bill expensive. Under T-Mo’s value plans, you will start with a $50 value plan with voice, text, and 500MB of data each month. If you want to have, say, 2GB of data available each month, you will pay an additional $10 (total of $60). You have the choice of selecting data plans of anywhere from 2-12.5GB of data each month for an additional price on your phone bill. If you want, say, 6GB of data each month, you will pay the $50 (voice and text) + $50 (data) for a total of $100 each month. This does not include the monthly cost of the phone — which could be an additional $30 a month. Thus, you could be paying $130 each month for the price of your unlocked smartphone + voice, text, and 6GB of data.

The prepaid plans, on the other hand, remain the same. T-Mo’s prepaid plans are still the true value plans (in my opinion), since you can get unlimited web for $70 a month (no throttling), while unlimited web in a value plan will cost you $90 each month (WiFi hotspot plan not included, requires additional money). The prepaid customer will pay $70 total. The value plan will cost $20 more than the unlimited prepaid plan. In other words, the prepaid plans are still the genuine value plans.

While this may not be acceptable to some, I applaud T-Mobile for what they are trying to do. I think they want to get customers off of contracts and two-year obligations. This is the upside to the value plans: you do not have to stay in your agreement for two years. If you want to get the latest iPhone after six months, you’re free to upgrade your plan on the new iPhone. You do not have to stay in your plan for two years, nor will you be required to pay the $350 early termination fee. These are the wins for the new value plans, but I will still say that prepaid plans give you lower prices as well as the freedom to upgrade your plan without the ETF.

Are you excited to see T-Mo’s new uncarrier value plans take shape? Which plan do you want and why? What’s your ideal data amount each month? Let us know in the comments.

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