T-Mobile’s Full Monty price plan: Unlimited everything — it’s brilliant and it’s the way ahead

For a long time I’ve been banging on about mobile operators simply not ‘getting it’. One of the key points I’ve been keen to assert is that dicking about charging me stupid little pennies (or, actually, huge lumps of pennies) for calls, texts and so on, was a total waste of time and resources.

In today’s environment, what you really want is the customer’s money, every month, like clockwork. You can make a lot more cash out of the customer in other ways, for example up-selling smart services or taking a cut of other transactions. Of course, when you’re entire operation is obsessing over how to take an extra twenty pence from me for a particular phone call, they’re not bothering focusing on taking tens of pounds in revenue from other activities.

All operators know this. They know they’re spunking their efforts up against the wall, most of the time. Witness, for example, the numerous industry executives I meet regularly telling me that they’ve no flipping clue what voice revenues they’re going to make this year. Yup. What they do know is that the majority of consumers are doing their level best to stick-one-in-the-eye of the finance bods and be very, very careful about what they do with their phones, so as not to overpay.

Why not stop fighting with the consumer? Why not zero-rate everything for a fixed monthly fee on a 24-month contract? Then at least the finance bods can relax and you can then focus on creating added value services that add significantly to the revenue?

Well that’s what T-Mobile has announced this morning.

It’s called The Fully Monty — and yes, it is absolutely unlimited everything. And before I go into detail, I should point out that this is potentially hugely damaging to Three. We’ll get to that in a moment.

There are four price ‘brackets’ thus:

Screen Shot 2012 01 30 at 09 24 03

As you can see there, at £36/month, you’ll get 2,000 minutes to other networks and a fairly good deal on the key smartphone offerings. Beyond £36, it’s now about how much you want to pay up-front for your handset. For an extra £5, you can advance to unlimited everything. And if you jump to £61/month, the 32GB iPhone 4S is free — and it’s just £29 for the 64GB.

Now then. It’s not truly ‘unlimited everything’. No. The finance bods obviously stuck their pins into Ben Fritsch, T-Mobile’s Head of Propositions, preventing him from zero-rating calls to number ranges such as 0800, 0808, 0845 and so on. They’re still a bollock-crushing 40 pence a minute. A FLIPPING MINUTE! And if you’re calling Jersey, that stlll-doesn’t-count.

However let’s stay positive.

Finally, one of the top operators in the UK has decided to dump the “minutes”. For quite a while, unlimited texts has been a popular add-on for most price plans, but usually you’ve had to pick and choose your ‘add-ons’ to try and get, for example, unlimited landline calls, but only 200 cross-network calls. It’s made the whole price plan decision process a bit annoying for everyone for the last decade.

It’s a landmark gesture to just make it all (or, most of it) unlimited.

I think this will appeal to quite a lot of contract customers.

Let’s hear from Mr Fritsch of T-Mobile:

The Full Monty has been designed for customers who want the peace of mind that there are absolutely no limits placed on their allowances, whilst also knowing they’re getting market leading value for money. We believe our Pay Monthly portfolio offers plans to suit anyone’s needs, all at accessible prices – and we’re really proud to be the first to offer a plan like The Full Monty in the UK”.

And for those of you reading, wondering whether there’s a fair-use policy on the data? There isn’t. Here are the words direct from T-Mobile’s release:

Customers signing up to The Full Monty 24 month plan will not only have the reassurance that there are no caps on their calls, texts and internet, they will also have access to unlimited WiFi, and can use their mobile internet for whatever they like – including tethering (using a smartphone as an internet connection for a laptop or tablet), streaming and downloading.

And here, for the sake of clarity, are the little footnotes:

Minutes and texts unlimited allowance apply to all UK mobile networks, voicemail and numbers beginning with 01, 02, 03 (excluding Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man). Calls to 08 (including 0870) or 070 numbers are premium rate numbers and excluded from your inclusive allowances. Calls to 0800, 0808, 0845 and other 08 numbers cost 40p/min. See www.t-mobile.co.uk/help&support/priceplans. Picture messages are not included within the allowance.

The Full Monty plan provides access to our preferred WiFi partner’€™s WiFi network; presently this is BT Openzone network excluding any sites providing access to any organisation or location which is part of the Olympic Games in London in 2012. The BT Openzone terms can be found at www.btopenzone.com/terms-and-conditions/index.jsp

So, this is good news. It’s about time we had this kind of action from the big operator groups in the UK. I’m interested to see just how long Vodafone will be able to cling-on to their “minutes” obsession as a result.

But there’s a few issues to consider.

First, T-Mobile and Orange have 28 million customers in the UK. Yes, their networks are shared, but just how well can they support data? Is this likely to turn into a One2One-style free-evening-and-weekend-calls arrangement whereby yes, it’s unlimited, but you can’t actually *access* the network because of congestion? That’s going to be interesting to see.

Second, if you’re paying a metered £1 or £2 per megabyte for data on T-Mobile, you’re hardly likely to react very well to other people paying ‘nothing’ but sitting on the internet watching iPlayer from their handsets all day, “cos it’s free”, especially if your data speeds go from good to super-slow.

I suppose that by limiting the spend to £36+/month, T-Mobile will be hoping to avoid the yoof community who are likely to spend a lot of time doing this.

Third, I worry for Three.

Their whole marketing campaign and message has been about their “The One” plan which has been trampled all over by today’s announcement. There’s still some juice in Three’s offer (their plan starts at £25/month, 2,000 minutes, 5,000 texts with unlimited data). For instance, the company’s “Text 500” plan comes with 500 minutes, 5,000 texts and 1GB of data. For £2 more on T-Mobile, you can get everything unlimited. This is a bit of an arse for Three.

I trust the rest of the UK operator community will now sit up and start dusting off the “what happens when someone else does unlimited, properly” strategy plans.

Good work T-Mobile.

Meanwhile, if Ben Fritsch and his team could see their way to introducing TMOGOLD (full details here), I’d be even more delighted.

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