With Rollover Data, AT&T Just Keeps Walking Face First Into T-Mobile Attempts To Make It Look Stupid

from the faking-it dept

We’ve noted more than a few times how T-Mobile has been slowly improving the wireless industry by doing something outrageous: giving customers things they actually want. So far that’s included unlimited data options at a time when the bigger carriers have embraced caps and steep overages — and a move away from the old subsidized handset model, where users can now often buy handsets outright or subsidize them over payment plans. While some of the actual pricing promotions have been cosmetic in nature, there’s no doubt that T-Mobile’s consumer-friendly policies and wise ass CEO have been a great thing for the industry.

The latest example of T-Mobile disruption is its recent introduction of roll over data, a common sense approach that lets users store their unused monthly data allotments for future use in what T-Mobile calls a “Data Stash.” It’s certainly not a revolutionary idea, and it’s not even original in the last month (a Southern wireless provider named C Spire offered the option a week or two before T-Mobile), but in a wireless industry dominated by just two players, we’re at the point where god-damned common sense is the very height of innovative disruption.

Enter AT&T, bloated and groggy from decades of regulatory capture and unfamiliar with real competition (despite what groups like the CTIA claim). AT&T’s been quietly admitting it’s starting to feel the pinch from T-Mobile’s shenanigans, which is of course precisely why AT&T tried to acquire and eliminate T-Mobile several years ago, and why regulators stepped in to block it.

Now forced to at least pretend to compete, AT&T this week introduced its own roll over data program, though in traditional ham-fisted AT&T fashion it has more than a little fine print. Unlike T-Mobile’s plan that lets you store unused data bytes and bits for up to a year, AT&T lets you store your roll over data for all of one month. Worse perhaps, before you can even use your rolled-over data you have to first burn through your primary data allotment. Meanwhile, much like it did when AT&T pretended its very limited 1 Gbps offerings in Austin wasn’t an obvious response to Google Fiber, AT&T is busy telling some reporters that this me-too effort (a poor one at that) has nothing whatsoever to do with T-Mobile.

It’s another example of AT&T trying to fake and head bob its way past competition, in the process walking face first into T-Mobile’s attempts to make the company look stupid. Amusingly, in an end of 2014 prediction blog post, T-Mobile CEO John Legere found it pretty easy to predict AT&T’s behavior:

“AT&T will find new ways to cause their customers pain – especially those still on grandfathered unlimited plans. Just to squeeze more money out of them. (Meanwhile, we?ll keep embracing unlimited.) I?m also betting AT&T will introduce a weak Data Stash? knock off ? but the fine print will be massive, and they?ll miss the first and most important step in the process ? which is to stop punishing their customers with domestic overages and instead get rid of them.”

Again making AT&T look bad isn’t hard, since AT&T is the one doing most of the heavy lifting. Legere quickly took to Twitter to mock AT&T for its efforts, in turn scoring even more PR points among consumers annoyed by AT&T and Verizon:

It’s perpetually entertaining to watch T-Mobile dismantle a giant by doing little more than treating consumers well and then just sitting back and waiting for AT&T to do something stupid. Of course with AT&T and Verizon’s bottomless lobbying pockets, stranglehold on spectrum reserves, dominance of 80% of the wireless retail market and an even greater dominant share of the special access (cell tower backhaul) market, being a pain in the ass can only get T-Mobile so far. Still, it’s progress for an industry that has spent ten years pantomiming what competition actually looks like. As T-Mobile and Sprint (not to mention the ocean of smaller MVNOs) gain their footing, pretending to compete is simply not going to be good enough for the nation’s dopey duopoly.

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Companies: at&t, t-mobile

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Comments on “With Rollover Data, AT&T Just Keeps Walking Face First Into T-Mobile Attempts To Make It Look Stupid”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I buy prepaid MVNO cards with unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of data a month. Simply because I don’t want to deal with all kinds of hidden charges and fees being piled onto my phone bill at the end of the month. Plus, with prepaid cards there’s no contracts!

I’m still hoping for more competition, because I feel $50 a month for 3GB of data is too much money. But all the benefits listed above evens things out a little.

Anonymous Coward says:

As an AT&T customer (primarily because of a work discount and better cell coverage at work and home), I’ve been wanting rollover data for years.

I have rollover minutes and the lowest possible number of minutes for my plan and I have accumulated 4300+ rollover minutes that I will likely never touch unless I develop narcolepsy while on the phone with a service that never hangs up on you while my phone is plugged in so it doesn’t lose power (i.e. yeah, never).

I’m not surprised they would pull this half-assed rollover data plan, but hopefully they’ll get forced to open up the terms more in the future.

Meanwhile using Google Maps for navigation when I’m in a different city uses up significant amounts of my 300 MB data plan. Accidentally leaving the webcam app on that I used to check on my dog at home while I’m away has led me to get $60 worth of overage charges that I had to call customer service to get canceled and pretend like they were doing me a favor for not charging me an insane amount for a piddly little amount of data.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

funny thing is, SWMBO switched our cellyphones from sprint to t-mob SIMPLY because of a botched purchase of new phones…

she picked a refurb/used one from sprint they SAID they had X number in stock at that store… (actually, she said it kept on bouncing around all kinds of numbers in stock) she orders that, THE ORDER IS CONFIRMED AND THEY SEND AN EMAIL AND PHONE MSG that says it is ready at the store, blah blah blah… goes the next day to pick it up, and they dont’ have it…
WTF? says she (or g-rated equivalent)…

by the time i meet her there to pick out my new phone, she has steam coming out her ears, and the STUPID fucking clerks are being MORONS and LOSE a customer because nobody knew shit about shit, and was not the least bit interested in finding out…
wife storms out and cancels our accounts (5 people on plan that was past obligation and on month-to-month) and switches to t-mob…
stupid droids at sprint, LAST thing the idiots say as we walk out the door is ‘we did our job’… NO, you didn’t asswipe, your ‘JOB’ is NOT to simply look on a computer screen and see the phone isn’t in the store, YOUR JOB IS TO MAKE IT RIGHT…

it would be one thing if she was looking for a phone they didn’t have in stock and got pissed about it; but this was a phone they SAID they had in stock, and sent msgs TELLING her they did and to come pick it up…

t-mob is working great, got our wifi hotspots like we wanted, and even on trips, we hardly approach our data limits… (not streaming movies and shit, just maps, web surfing, hooking up the tablets to them, etc…)

no doubt, they are all eee-vil, but it seems t-mob is slightly less eee-vil…

OldGeezer (profile) says:


When I retired I had no real use for a cell phone except for emergencies. I dumped AT&T and bought a TracPhone. The phone cost me $20 and there is no contract time. This included double minutes for as long as I have it. I pay for a year what AT&T’s minimum plan cost for less than 2 months. Texting is included. ALL minutes are rolled over with no limit. I buy maximum time with the fewest minutes and right now I could talk 24/7 for 2 weeks with what I have accumulated. Why anyone would use anyone else I do not know.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: TracPhone

I accumulate so many minutes because since I retired I sometimes go months at a time without using my phone. I only have a cell now so I won’t be stranded if my car breaks down or I am in an accident. Or maybe to call somewhere I am going to let them know I am running late or need directions. I drive less than a thousand miles a year. The MINIMUM plan AT&T offered was 400 minutes a month and I probably wouldn’t use that much in the next 20 years. That was costing almost $60 a month. With TracPhone I can buy as little as 120 minutes a YEAR which they double.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: TracPhone

I guess what the original AC was saying is not that you are paying too much because there is an alternative. I guess his point was that – although you may be paying less than anyone else – you apparently are still buying too many minutes since you keep accumulating them.
And buying them means paying for them… even if you don’t need them.

wiseguyy says:

Re: Re: Re: TracPhone

Well sounds like you simply waste your hard earned retirement funds. Truly if you don’t even make a call for month’s and and month’s i would imagine your next door neighbor is named Mr. Douglas and the local traveling salesmans name is Mr. Haney you should just opt for carrier pigeons. Buy some bird seed and save a bundle or simply climb the local telephone pole…LOL…;-)

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Re: TracPhone

If you only accumulate minutes month after month, you’re actually buying too many of them… and paying for them!

So what? You’re the one paying for minutes only to have them taken from you never to be seen again.

The point is that we end up paying less than we would on any standard network, but we get all the services you enjoy paying 4x what we do. Not sure how you think we’re the fools here.

And now that Tracfone finally has smartphones available, I’ve lost the only reason I ever had to want to get on a “normal” plan.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: TracPhone

Very true. I don’t think anyone but TracPhone has a plan for only 120 minutes per year that they double. Since I use it so little I am actually just buying time and not minutes. At about one tenth the cost of the cheapest AT&T plan of 400 minutes a month it is a bargain. I think I used about 20 minutes all last year and most of that was to call a tow truck when I slid into a ditch during a snowstorm. I pay for the convenience of it being there if I need it. For those who need it more than me you never lose any time you have paid for.

Cory Vanderyacht (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 TracPhone

You have to be the first person I have ever heard from that it actually makes some sense to have Tracfone. The same service I pay AT&T around $80.00 a month for, would cost me well over $300.00 per month with Tracfone in an average month of usage. That’s why people go with someone else. I can’t believe how much they charge per minute. I guess if you never use your phone it’s a great deal, but considering you could cancel your home phone, and get an unlimited minutes cell account with someone else for the same price that you pay for your home phone, it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 TracPhone

Even before I retired most months I used my cell so little that a TracPhone might have still been cheaper. I have known a lot people that are on their phone constantly. My ex does not have have good enough credit to get a contract. The guy she married after me spent her into bankruptcy before he died. (No, she didn’t kill him but she should have! LOL) She told me that her prepaid was costing her way more than if she could have gotten a regular phone. The service time is cheap. If you need a lot minutes that’s where they get you.

kennon (profile) says:

if only

Now if only T-Mobile had some decent coverage where I live I’d switch in a minute. It’s ok on the main streets and the freeway but get off into a suburban area or go inside a large building and their signal goes down faster than a cheap date. Hope they are building infrastructure with all their new revenue so people in my area can join in on the fun.

Anonymous Coward says:

To be fair, the T-Mobile CEO made the ‘prediction’ just one week before ATT announced. ATT’s plan obviously had been in the works for weeks before the ‘prediction.’ It would have been a pretty big failure of T-Mobile’s competitive analysis department not to know that it was coming by that time. Too many ATT insiders would have had to know about it, all the way down to the grunts doing the web pages for it. Somebody would have leaked it.

dave blevins (profile) says:

Roots of today's AT&T

“bloated and groggy from decades of regulatory capture and unfamiliar with real competition”

Yep, Cellular One has gotten at least a few to forget they just changed names and logo when they bought the real MaBell’s mobile.

Hey fellows, today’s AT&T is not the same as Ma Bell and the seven dwarfs, it is the [still] stupid renamed Cellular One.

Ryan Jones (user link) says:

nice but

All of these innovations are moot if T Mobile doesn’t expand their coverage map. It basically only works in major metropolitan areas. Travel an hour or more away from home and suddenly you’re back to paying crazy data roaming fees – if you’re even able to get data at all.

ATT has a lot of users stuck with them since there aren’t many other options to get data while traveling.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: nice but

I travel between NY and northern VT regularly and have never had a major service problem with T-Mobile.

There are some eastern CT areas and some areas away from I91 in Vermont that I lose signal entirely, but my phone stops working for everything except emergency calls and I have never been charged a roaming fee.

Now that they offer WiFi calling, the areas that were previously a bit of a pain point for me are mostly resolved.

Not so long ago, Verizon was the only realistic option for me, so I would have to say a lot of progress has been made in recent years.

Just Don (profile) says:

Re: Re:

@Mason Wheeler

This wouldn’t be bad if rollover data was good for more than one month. However, if the data expires after one month, and you don’t use it first, than it usually is useless. Here is how it works in practice:

Primary allotment first
January: Use 1GB of 2GB allotment. (1GB to rollover)
February: Use 2GB of 2GB allotment. (0GB to rollover)
March: Use 3GB (2GB allotment + 1GB overage)

Rollover first
January: Use 1 GB of 2GB allotment (1 GB to rollover)
February: Use 2GB – 1 of rollover, 1 of allotment. 1GB to rollover
March: Use 3GB (1GB rollover, 2GB allotment, 0 overage)

In the second case you have “useful” rollover. In the first case you use the same amount of data, but have to pay for overages.

AU fan says:

Re: Re:

This is bad because you wont ever get to roll any further data. If I have 10GB and use 8GB, then 2GB rolls and the next month I have 12GB. Now during the next month, you start using the original 10GB and will not get ot use the 2GB of rolloed data until the 10GB is fully used. Since the original 10GB is now used, the 2GB of rolled data will now be lost, and since the 10GB original allotment has been used… voilla, nothing rolls over. This is not true rolled data, just a sneaky marketing trick.

Anonymous Coward says:

You can call and get the fees removed

I’m a AT&T customer and I’ve had good luck calling and getting the overage fees removed and then some every time I get them. I just threaten to leave and go to T-Mo or Sprint and my bill gets cheaper every time I call. Of course it’s a hassle and it would be better if the best deal was just offered to customers, but worth the time to make a call rather than the even bigger hassle of switching carriers.

Blacque Jacques Shellacque says:

“AT&T will find new ways to cause their customers pain – especially those still on grandfathered unlimited plans.”

I never had an unlimited plan, but way back when, I was an AT&T blue account holder, from before the merger with Cingular. After the merger, over time I got the pinch; text messages that had been ten cents each became fifteen cents each, and then the back-breaker was when it was no longer possible to send a message to my phone via xxxxxxxxxx@mmode.com. When I poked around on the AT&T support site, I found out that the only way to get that back was to sign up for a new plan, with a new contract. I can’t imagine what feature I had would be lost next if I had been dumb enough to stick with AT&T.

Jen says:

AT&T does not have monthly rollover minutes

Let’s call it what it is- rollover data is only available every other month if you have any left over. The issue is that they claim it is monthly but there is no way it can possibly make sense. Let’s say you have 30gb and only use 20gb they will give you 10gb to roll over. The next month you are unable to use the10gb rollover until you finish the 30gb so you cannot roll over anything the following month. So therefore, rollover is every other month. It is so silly that they are trying to compete with this.

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