I want to be excited about this. Or, more excited about this than I am. This is, to my mind (as with Yglesias’s) how things should work. And T-Mobile, as a company, has always done business the way that I want cell phone companies to do business. I am not a T-Mobile customer due to their complete lack of coverage in my part of the country. That’s a bit of a cop-out, though. There was a regional carrier that I could have signed with and chose not to. Good people though they were, they couldn’t provide me with the service I wanted.
I am currently under contract with The Dark Side. They were the only ones that could.
Anyhow, T-Mobile is in a similar situation where they are virtuous because they have no claws. It is not likely the other major carriers will follow suit. Further, for it to be really advantageous, we’d need common standards and unlocked phones so that I can take my phone from one company to another. If I were to switch to T-Mobile, I’d need to buy a new phone. So whether we’re buying our own phone or accepting a subsidy, we’re talking about significant barriers to exit.
My sister-in-law recently recruited my help to set her up with a modern smartphone and mobile plan for her relocation to Alaska. Alaska is a peculiar case as far as mobile phones (and many, many other things) go, but it got me looking at the various options out there. For a whole lot of people who aren’t me, the arguments in favor of prepaid plans are becoming stronger and stronger. It may even be something I look at when our contract with The Dark Side expires. The prepaid market works more closely to how I think things should work and are increasingly including things - like unlimited whatever - that keep me deciding between the big boys.
Now, most (all?) of those carriers rely on either AT&T and Verizon’s networks (do any of them use Sprint?). Which makes me wonder about the long-term viability of this, if their leasing out their lines is cannibalizing their own business. I don’t think such leasing is actually required (I remember reading that T-Mobile was approached but declined), so if the downmarket carriers get too competitive, the big two can put a stop to that.
Honestly, though, I’d actually consider it desirable to have two overlapping national networks if we ended up primarily having competition on the storefront level.