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T-Mobile looks to ‘free’ customers with no-contract plans

Jorge Martel, general manager of T-Mobile on the island, which is an independent subsidiary of T-Mobile U.S.

Jorge Martel, general manager of T-Mobile on the island, which is an independent subsidiary of T-Mobile U.S.

Nearly a year after its stateside parent adopted its “Un-carrier” attitude by axing contracts and unbundling the costs of its plans and devices, T-Mobile Puerto Rico is following suit with the launch of its “Libérate” campaign, going after wireless customers who are frustrated with existing pricing and restrictive offers.

The strategy offering no annual service contract, unlimited plans without restrictions, surcharges and penalties goes into effect Monday, when customers can join T-Mobile with no annual contracts and plans starting at $40 a month for a single line and unlimited talk, text and Web with 500MB of high-speed data.

“We’re launching a completely new and different business model: we’ll still be a wireless company, but we will not behave like one,” Jorge Martel, general manager of T-Mobile on the island, which is an independent subsidiary of T-Mobile U.S.

“Wireless consumer complaints are our call to action. Our whole strategy is based on what customers don’t like about wireless companies and change it,” he said “These plans are more aggressive than those of T-Mobile in the states.”

T-Mobile’s campaign clearly goes after the island’s biggest carriers AT&T and Claro — Puerto Rico’s largest wireless service providers — and responds to customer complaints with each of them.

“We’ve spent a long time doing market studies and the main complaints that AT&T customers have in Puerto Rico is how inflexible their contracts are, while Claro customers complain about the excessive penalties,” Martel said. “Wireless customers basically want to have more economical rates with the phones they want.”

The plans being introduced locally respond to the growth of the no-contract sector, a demand for family plans and an increase in the use of wireless broadband, he said.

In terms of family plans, T-Mobile is offering the option of adding more lines starting at $10 a month with our without credit checks. Furthermore, each family member can add the plan that fits their lifestyle, he said.

Coupled with its new no-contract structure, T-Mobile is also offering $0-down on several 4G LTE-capable devices, namely the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy S4, all iPhones, among others. The equipment will be paid in monthly installments for up to 24 months, at no interest.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is introducing mobile global Internet access with no roaming chargest in more than 100 countries, including the Dominican Republic, Spain, Brazil, and England, among others.

T-Mobile’s business overhaul represents the latest salvo in a long-standing battle among the island’s wireless carriers, which cater to a market with an 86 percent penetration rate that has remained somewhat stable in recent years. Although Puerto Ricans are among the world’s chattiest wireless customers, in recent years, they have showed a marked preference for prepaid and no-contract services in an attempt to control their wireless costs in the face of a contracted economy.

T-Mobile is spending $7 million to launch its no-contract, less restrictive offering, which required an overhaul in billing and customer service procedures. The investment also covers the company’s advertising blitz that included black and white signs all over the metro area suggesting Feb. 24 would be a “free day,” as well as a 5-minute TV special airing on the three major networks.

“This is just the beginning. We are changing the game and giving the consumer the option of deciding what they want to do and choose,” he said.

In the states, T-Mobile unveiled its “Un-carrier” strategy in March 2013, when company CEO John Legere — who is known for his somewhat irreverent nature — said the carrier was “canceling its membership in the out-of-touch wireless club.”

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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