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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 9, 2013 at 5:15 PM

T-Mobile adds global roaming, Shakira

T-Mobile threw a party in New York tonight to celebrate the third phase of its “uncarrier” strategy repositioning the wireless company as a more competitive challenger to its larger rivals.

Shakira

Photo courtesy of T-Mobile

The third phase adds free international data and text roaming to the company’s “Simple Choice” plans. While abroad, T-Mobile customers’ voice calls are capped at 20 cents a minute. The features take effect Oct. 31 and apply in more than 100 countries.

“Every single one of us has had that experience of either being terrified to use your phone in another country or getting bill shock when you come back,” said Jason Young, T-Mobile vice president of marketing.

Overseas data service will be limited to pokey 2G speeds, and the company said the offer isn’t for extended trips.

For those who call abroad extensively, the company also  announced a new international calling plan that provides unlimited texts and calls from the U.S. to landlines to more than 70 countries for $10 per month.

The Bellevue-based carrier also announced that its LTE service now reaches more than 200 million potential customers across the U.S., a goal it reached three months ahead of its schedule.

But the business moves were upstaged by company’s new promotional deal with musician Shakira, who performed at a concert that T-Mobile hosted in New York’s Bryant Park.

T-Mobile will promote her upcoming releases and charitable work, and Shakira will “raise awareness for T-Mobile products and services,” a T-Mobile news release said.

“Today is all about bringing the world closer together,” Shakira said in the release. “I’m excited to partner with T-Mobile and look forward to being able to share my music in new and innovative ways.”

Perhaps the cost associated with hiring Shakira and hosting a concert in New York is why T-Mobile borrowed $5.6 billion through a massive bond issuance on Tuesday. (Update: T-Mobile thought that joke was un-funny. A spokesman informed me that T-Mobile “will not incur any proceeds as a result of this transaction” because the notes were sold by its majority owner, Deutsche Telekom.)

With or without Shakira, T-Mobile’s new global service offerings may improve its standing with international travelers, business customers and immigrants who use their cell phones to stay in touch with friends and families back home.

T-Mobile already has a more multiethnic customer base than other carriers, Young said.

It may also prompt other carriers to offer better international options, and ease up on the outrageously expensive charges that can result if you use your phone across the border.

But the announcements are less radical than the earlier “uncarrier” moves that simplified T-Mobile’s billing plans and extended unlimited data offerings. T-Mobile was also first to offer multiple phone upgrades to customers who pay extra fees, an option now offered by all the major carriers.

T-Mobile’s stock closed down 1.78 percent or 46 cents at $25.36 Wednesday, but rose by a penny in after-hours trading as the Shakira concert got started.

Comments | Topics: global calling, international roaming charges, Phones

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