T-Mobile Intros $80 Unlimited Plan

T-Mobile USA, the mobile operator that may soon be swallowed up by AT&T in a controversial $39 billion acquisition, on Wednesday introduced an unlimited nationwide calling, texting and data plan for $79.99 per month.

The price above requires a two-year contract and excludes taxes, fees and the cost of a phone. The plan is available today online and at T-Mobile retail locations.

T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. mobile operator, claims the offering is $350 per year cheaper than comparable plans offered by its larger rivals AT&T, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless.

Customers who exceed 2 GB of usage in a billing cycle wont be cut off from data services but will receive reduced speeds until their new billing cycle starts.

The offering is not T-Mobiles first unlimited plan. The company sells a plan for $99.99 that offers reduced speeds after customers reach 5 GB of data usage.

Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile has not revealed the number of customers who subscribe to an unlimited plan or data services. But smartphones represented 42 percent of T-Mobile’s base of contract customers as of the fourth quarter.

With 33.7 million wireless subscribers at the end of last year, T-Mobile is the smallest of the four U.S. national mobile operators. Some groups contend that prices in the U.S. wireless industry will go up if AT&T gobbles the carrier.

Following the merger, AT&T and Verizon Wireless would control about 80 percent of the market, according to the New York Attorney Generals Office.

In a letter to members of Congress Tuesday, a consumer group expressed concern that the pending merger could affect prices. A Consumer Reports survey found that T-Mobile wireless plans generally cost $15 to $50 less per month than comparable AT&T plans, wrote Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union the publisher of Consumer Reports in the letter.

That finding supports anecdotal observations that T-Mobile is generally a lower-priced carrier than AT&T,” Desai wrote. It also validates concerns that T-Mobile subscribers eventually migrating to AT&T plans could pay more for service than they would have under a T-Mobile plan and that T-Mobiles departure from the wireless market would eliminate a relatively low-cost carrier as an option for consumers.”

AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris told the New York Times the merger would not affect current T-Mobile subscribers. Current T-Mobile phones will continue to work fine once the transaction is complete and you will be able to keep your existing price plan,” he said.  

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