By Thomas Gryta
T-Mobile USA has introduced pricing for its business customers using mobile broadband devices--such as hotspots and tablets--that lets them avoid automatic slowdowns in their service when they exceed usage limits.
The change comes as wireless providers are figuring out better ways to monetize on data usage from customers that is expected to rise as next-generation networks become more widely available.
A spokesman declined to comment on whether the new options will eventually be offered to consumer plans, but noted that T-Mobile is "exploring how this kind of model can be applied for business customers in other ways."
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Plc (VOD VOD.LN), recently unveiled pricing for wireless data plans that focus on subscribers' data usage and will raise prices for many users. AT&T Inc. (T) is widely expected to make a similar move. Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) continues to offer unlimited data with no throttling to customers on its network.
T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telecom AG (DTE.XE DTEGY), will now give business customers the option to avoid throttling, the practice of slowing down the data connection speed after a monthly data limit is reached. Under the new "high speed" plans, customer can pay for a monthly allotment and then pay for extra data consumption at a metered rate, something that will avoid slowing the connection.
T-Mobile will still provide the option to have the throttled option, called "overage free" because it prevents additional charges from being accrued. All the new plans will be available by the end of July.
The plans only involve mobile broadband devices and doesn't change its offerings for smartphones. The company offers smartphone consumers unlimited data plans with throttling; the phone plans differ on price based on the monthly data usage amount at which the connection gets throttled.
Both of the new plans offer data package ranging from 500 megabytes to 10 gigabytes. The previous structure was "essentially our consumer plans with a volume discount", the spokesman said. He notes that the new plans can qualify for volume discounts as well.
The current consumer plans range from 2 gigabytes of data for about $40 a month to up to 10 gigabytes for about $80. Under the new business plans, the prices start at about $20 a month for 500 megabytes for the high-speed plan and rise to about $73 a month for 10 gigabytes on the overage free plans. All the plans have an option to pay about $5 a month to cover the cost of a device, otherwise the plans don't include a device.
The new plans come as the company's management is in transition: Chief Executive Philipp Humm resigned Wednesday to take a job with Vodafone in Europe. Jim Alling, chief operating officer of T-Mobile USA, is serving interim chief executive and a search for a permanent successor is under way.
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