Ting to support T-Mobile, iPhone 6, come February 2015

I’ve written on here before about Ting. It’s a good cell phone service for people that don’t use a ton of data, minutes, or texts. In any given month I use about 300 MB of data, a couple hundred minutes, and 0 texts thanks to iMessage and not having any “green bubble friends”.

I switched away from Ting, though, after coming to the realization that Sprint is just awful, at least here in Indianapolis. Your mileage may vary, but I could routinely have full-signal, LTE, the works, and it’d spin and spin and spin … and spin. So I switched to T-Mobile, because here in Indianapolis and most major cities, their claims of vastly improving their network are true. They’re picking up customers so fast they’re about to surpass Sprint as the nation’s third largest carrier. This completes my network experience, as I’ve now been on all the US carriers in the last 10 years.

Which is a shame, because now I pay $90 a month for T-Mobile when I paid Ting about $30. Part of that is iPhone subsidy, of course, but even comparing service-to-service, I was paying $30 and now I pay $50, plus $10 for JUMP/insurance, and $28 for the phone, and taxes and fees. It’s a good value, but it’s still $90 a month.

Because what good is a phone that doesn’t let me check emails when I’m just here in town, as was the case with Sprint? T-Mobile’s network, for its part, is fast, and if you have a signal you have service, period. If you don’t have a signal, you don’t have service. It’s only complicated by T-Mobile’s relatively small footprint, but aggressive tactics to deploy newly-auctioned 700 Mhz spectrum should change that in 2015 on almost all of their network. That means expanded coverage in rural areas and better in-building penetration.

Ting updates coming in February 2015

Which is why I’m excited that Ting is going to offer support for those who can’t rely on Sprint. They can’t say that, however, because of silly attorney wrangling, I’m sure. So we’ll just say that Ting is going to offer support for a network that rhymes with Gee-Pobile.

Here’s what Ting’s own team emailed me the other day (presumably because I’ve written so much about them before):

  • Until now, about ~10% of people could bring a Sprint phone. When we launch, about 80% of phones could come to Ting with a SIM card. That makes the savings calculation a whole lot sweeter.
  • Likewise, customers could feel comfortable that whatever GSM device they have or purchase could just easily leave Ting to go somewhere else. We think that’s the way it should be.
  • This also means we will always support the latest iPhone (including the IPhone 6 at launch) and any other hero devices that we have had to wait up to a year for in the CDMA world.
  • We will be the only provider that actually enables customers to have active CDMA and GSM devices on one account, sharing voice, data and text across those networks. That’s just sort of bad-ass.

February 2015 isn’t that far off, thankfully. And because T-Mobile doesn’t lock me into a contract, once I pay off the phone I can switch and keep it. Ting will also be able to support new phones going forward, too, which is nice since they’ve routinely been a generation behind on the iPhone. This means Ting can now support the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, at least on the GSM network side.

Ting hasn’t confirmed they will be able to pay a little subsidy to help people like me get out from under a hefty phone cost, which is almost like an Early Termination Fee, but not really. But they have indicated they’ll think about it and see what comes of it.

Bittersweet switching back?

I like Ting and I like T-Mobile. I like Ting for being different and having stellar customer service. You call and you get an actual person with barely any hold time. I like T-Mobile for fighting back, being the underdog of the carriers, and generally just shaking things up for the sake of shaking things up.

T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere, while in something of an act as a brash and abrasive guy, is generally on a tear against Verizon and AT&T, and there’s nothing I like more than a guy fighting Verizon and AT&T. Part of why I’m okay paying $90 a month for T-Mobile is just to support them in their efforts to keep Verizon and AT&T honest.

They do have some perks to their membership, too. In-home WiFi routers for free to boost in-home signals, the newly-announced Data Stash (which only applies to 3GB+ plans, unfortunately, and not my 1 GB plan), Music Freedom for free music streaming (which I use a lot and does save me money), and not being on-contract are a real plus. I detest contracts and the hidden fees that come with them, and T-Mobile has been very good about eliminating that, but so has Ting, just in different ways.

Moreover, T-Mobile’s aggressive network upgrades and rollout of new infrastructure puts them in good fighting position against the older networks of AT&T and Verizon later on. I’d much rather be on T-Mobiles non-LTE network than Verizon’s 3G service any day.

The big difference is “Unlimited Data” vs “Unlimited Data”.

At T-Mobile “Unlimited” applies to everything from minutes to texts to data. For data, there’s a tiny asterisk. It’s “unlimited” in that you’ll never get an overage fee and you’ll never get shut off. What you’re paying for is a bucket of LTE data. Once you exhaust that bucket of LTE data, you get throttled down to 128 Kbps, or the equivalent of most in-home DSL connections or what it was like using an iPhone in 2009. For some things that’s just okay, but for streaming anything you’re not going to get much.

At Ting, “Unlimited” is truly unlimited LTE, you just have to pay for what you use. It’s more like your light bill in that way.

Two different approaches, both with pros and cons. It depends on what kind of user you are and how closely you follow your usage, or if you care to follow it closely at all.

Ting’s approach will also be interesting in that they won’t be “second-tier”. Historically people have claimed, mostly accurately, that T-Mobile’s postpaid customers (credit-approved people who pay their bill after they’ve used it for a month and are generally more lucrative and “sticky”) get top priority. This means at 4:30 p.m. when the network is most congested in a given area, postpaid customers get to be in the “fast lane”. Whereas pre-paid customers (customers who buy minutes and data on a pre-paid card and redeem them during the month until they run out), and MVNOs like T-Mobile’s own Metro PCS get second-tier priority, so during heavy congestion you might get throttled down a bit.

Ting has confirmed  to me,

“We get the same coverage as their retail brand and we control whether our customers get throttled or anything else. And we don’t do that.”

How to sign up

If you’d like to sign up with Ting in advance, use this promo code and we’ll both get a $25 credit: https://z0ddigb4p.ting.com/

About the author

Justin Harter

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