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T-Mobile's crafty way to charge extra fees and still remain Un-carrier

T-Mobile is pretty careful in keeping its status as the underdog among US carriers. In its market share gain days when it had the flamboyant John Legere as CEO, T-Mobile called itself the Un-carrier to set itself apart, and didn't miss a chance to dis Verizon or AT&T over their plan prices and 5G network struggles.

It indeed had a point, as it kept its profit margins very low compared to Big Red and Ma Bell, which resulted in both much lower plan prices, and faster 5G network expansion. Under CEO Mike Sievert, however, T-Mobile is taking it easy on the Un-carrier branding and its prices have narrowed the gap with AT&T or Verizon.

T-Mobile vs Verizon vs AT&T plan prices

Still Un-carrier

As you can see in the table below, the basic unlimited plan prices of T-Mobile are still lower than those of Verizon and AT&T, and its family plans with more lines are especially appealing.

T-Mobile Essentials

AT&T Value Plus

Verizon Unlimited Welcome

1 line




2 lines




3 lines

$90 (3rd line free, limited time offer)



4 lines

$100 (limited time offer)



5 lines





at >50GB



Video streaming




Hotspot per line

3G speeds

5GB at full speed


*All prices are after Auto Pay and w/ paperless billing, include unlimited talk&text in the US

The difference in plan prices, however, diminishes the more lines you add. Despite that T-Mobile has a slight price advantage of about $5 per line a month for a family plan with four lines, those twenty bucks saved would mean little if there is no T-Mobile coverage.

For now, Verizon's network is the most extensive one in rural areas, for instance, if not in 5G coverage. Still, T-Mobile's own promo materials tout its price advantage over Verizon and AT&T.


About those activation fees

T-Mobile postpaid giveth and prepaid taketh away

When it comes to crafty little ways to keep being the underdog and the Un-carrier in the minds of users, however, T-Mobile is seemingly embarking on a two-pronged strategy. On March 8th, for instance, T-Mobile cut the price of the so-called Device Connection Charge on new lines from $35 to $5 as per an internal memo. 

This is a rather sizeable discount for one of the most annoying ghost fees in a carrier's roster, and is surely being met with appreciation from current and prospective T-Mobile subscribers who might have otherwise been hesitant to pull the trigger.

This is for the lucrative market of postpaid plans, however, which are the bread and butter of carrier revenues once they get their subs locked into lengthy phone installment plans that now extend to 36 months even.

When it comes to T-Mobile's own prepaid offering that doesn't require such contracts, the Un-carrier is seemingly inclined to reap back some of the largesse it showed with the postpaid device connection fees.

According to another leaked internal memo, the activation fees of T-Mobile Prepaid are getting an increase. The charge appears to take effect March 21 and replaces the SIM Starter Kit with a $25 Device Connection Charge. In addition, T-Mobile Prepaid will charge an extra $5 fee for topping off at a store. T-Mobile even offers how to explain it to customers:

The Device Connection Charge is a one-time charge for connecting a new phone device to the network when activating or upgrading with T-Mobile Prepaid.

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