T-Mobile offered one small, under-promoted forerunner to the mountains of iPhones, Androids, and other mobile web devices. Something that you could actually use to browse the news, email, and weather of the day for absolutely free.
The T-Zones portal was one of T-Mobile’s original mobile data initiatives. It was rolled out during the rebrand from VoiceStream, the original venture that T-Mobile Europe branded their American enterprise.
On prepaid though, T-Zones did something special. T-Zones partnered with CNN, ABC, Yahoo, and others to provide free content access, without having to pay for any data plan at all. This meant that people who could not afford (at the time, massive) GPRS packet data prices on other carriers, could pick up a T-Mobile prepaid phone and enjoy the WAP-and-xHTML based basic web for no dollars each month.
A few months back, T-Mobile tore down the T-Zones portal, but bitter clingers could still access bookmarks to sites like CNN, and access the content that way. No more, according to Prepaid Phone News, T-Mobile has shut down access to the URLs when manually entered.
T-Mobile continues to grasp internally with why it is struggling in the marketplace. Meanwhile, the carrier continues to be the most aggressive in limiting user’s high-speed data. T-Mobile throttles most customers to 2G, 50 kbps data speeds after only 2 GB of data used. Even much-bemoaned rival AT&T has relented and now throttles all grandfathered customers at a minimum of 3 GB, and 5 GB for customers that upgrade to a 4G LTE smartphone.
The number-four carrier does however show some signs of attempting to innovate on the prepaid front. T-Mobile is the only carrier in the big four to offer a data-only prepaid smartphone plan. Partnering with Wal-mart, the relatively under-the-table plan offers 100 voice minutes and 5 GB of 4G HSPA+ data for $30 per month. After which, the plan throttles customers to 2G speeds.
Similar to our recent Verizon Wireless LTE SIM-swapping coverage, T-Mobile appears to be permitting this special plan to work in tablets and portable hotspot devices.
It’s not clear how many have taken T-Mobile up on the offer, as it technically requires the purchase of a new smartphone from Wal-mart, but then can be used with other devices. Some T-Mobile retail stores do report however that they will honor the plan, but it is not clear if this is corporate policy or not.