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T-Mobile pushing for prepaid data users

It appears that T-Mobile has seen the writing on the wall. For the past few years their quarterly earnings reports have featured grim subscriber numbers for the postpaid side. At the same time they’ve consistently added prepaid customers. For the past year or so, we’ve seen T-Mobile acknowledge this trend by creating a whole slew of monthly prepaid plans that feature plenty of 4G data. According to a report from FierceWireless’s Phil Goldstein, T-Mobile is pushing its dealers to promote these prepaid plans. It has started a tiered compensation plan that incentivizes dealers to extol the virtues of these monthly 4G plans.
This isn’t the only trend T-Mobile has jumped in on. They’re also moving in on a market that has little remaining use for big allotments of voice minutes.

Paul Kaputstka of PCWorld brings us this report. He mentions T-Mobile’s $30 plan with Walmart as part of an emerging trend: replacing traditional carrier services with data overlays. While T-Mobile’s plan does include unlimited text messaging, there are a number of alternatives that rely only on a data connection. Since these instant messaging exchanges requires little data transmission, they don’t eat too greatly into a user’s monthly cap. Even if they do cause a user to go over, they can still IM at T-Mobile’s reduced speeds.
This is one reason why many disfavor the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. Because T-Mobile is the trailing entity in the Big Four, they have to come up with new ways to bring in customers. They tried this last year with their Project Black initiative. That failed, and it’s probably why they were more open to a sale in early 2011. But because they’re still an independent entity, and because the deal has a legitimate, if slim, chances of falling through, they have to continue trying different approaches to see what works. If they really have hit on something with these monthly 4G plans, then perhaps they can start an industry trend that will favor them, since they’re the only carrier currently willing to try this path.
This is all speculative, of course, but it does give T-Mobile a slightly rosier outlook. Chances are they’ll become part of AT&T before long, but if on the off chance they do remain independent, they do have a chance to make some big changes to a glacial industry.