T-Mobile Tweaks Pre-Paid Phone and Data Plans

On Monday of next week, T-Mobile will introduce new prepaid plans for handsets and data devices that are lower in price, but have set bandwidth limits. Also launching next week is T-Mobile’s first prepaid 3G USB dongle, the Jet Prepaid USB Stick, which can be used with plans by the day, week or month. Here’s a rundown of the new plans for 3G-enabled feature phones and smartphones:

  • $70/month Unlimited Talk and Text with 2 GB of Data
  • $50/month Unlimited Talk and Text with 100 MB of Data
  • $30/month 1,500 Talk and Text (mix and match voice and text messages) with 30 MB of Data
  • Unlimited Text and Talk $0.10/minute
  • $1.49/day Web DayPass

The first plan in the list, at $70, is similar to the one I use for the unsubsidized Google Nexus One (s goog) I purchased in January. I currently pay T-Mobile a no-contract price of $79 per month for unlimited talk, text and data. Switching to the new plan would save me $9 per month, which is certainly appealing, but my unlimited data would then become limited to 2 GB. Note that while my current data plan is unlimited, T-Mobile reserves the right throttle back my bandwidth speeds if I cross over a 5 GB monthly threshold.

Studies show that 98 percent of smartphone users such as myself use under 2 GB of monthly data, and I’m no exception. Over the past several months, my average use of T-Mobile’s 3G network has been roughly 600 MB per month. However, I’m using the wireless hotspot feature of my device more often during travel, so I anticipate my usage to go up: I think I’ll stick with my slightly more expensive plan as a result. Average smartphone users, however, are likely under the 2 GB cap, so the new $70 plan is likely to appeal.

T-Mobile hasn’t indicated the cost of the new Jet Prepaid USB stick, which should appeal to casual 3G users, but the currently offered Jet runs $149.99 without a contract. Plan prices and capacities range based on the time frame: $10 buys 100 MB for a week, $30 allows for 300 MB in a month and $50 increases the monthly cap to 1 GB. Compared to contract plans that typically offer 5 GB for $60 a month, the Jet’s cost per MB may not appear competitive. But customers that don’t want a long-term contract or simply want mobile broadband on an irregular basis should be happy with the flexibility afforded by the new plans, which have no annual contract, no credit check, no overages and can be used with any of the company’s mobile broadband products. And while the cost per MB appears expensive when compared to other 3G carriers, T-Mobile customers in an HSPA+ coverage area will gain the benefit of faster broadband speeds.

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