Hands shaking

Dish Amends Its Agreement With T-Mobile

While convincing regulators to approve a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, T-Mobile committed to allowing Dish to offload traffic to T-Mobile’s network for several years. Then, roughly a year ago, Dish announced that it formed a similar agreement allowing the company to piggyback on AT&T’s network.

On Tuesday, Dish announced that it renegotiated the arrangement with T-Mobile. Among other things, the amended agreement involves better pricing for Dish:

DISH Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) signed an amendment to the 2020 Master Network Services Agreement…The amendment…incorporates financial and operational changes, including improved pricing and enhanced roaming solutions.

The new agreement will need to be approved by regulators. It’s expected to get a green light by the end of the summer.

Mike Dano at Light Reading wrote a more detailed article covering Dish’s announcement. While I don’t entirely trust the numbers, I found this excerpt especially interesting:

New Street analysts wrote in a note to investors Tuesday that Dish paid T-Mobile a little less than $2 billion in 2021 for access to its network, which equates to $17 per subscriber per month, or about $2 per GB. The analysts estimate that Dish’s deal with AT&T is closer to $1.50/GB, with a path to $1/GB over time. They said they believed Dish’s new agreement with T-Mobile is likely in line with its $1.50/GB deal with AT&T.
Calendars

T-Mobile Delays CDMA Shutdown & Calls Out Dish

Today, T-Mobile issued a press release announcing that it will delay the phaseout of Sprint’s legacy 3G/CDMA network. The phaseout had been set to occur on January 1, 2022, but it has now been pushed back three months to March 31, 2022.

In the press release, T-Mobile takes shots at Dish but does not mention the company by name (emphasis mine):

To build out our revolutionary network…we need to sunset outdated CDMA technologies as soon as possible…This is why we have aggressively executed on plans to take care of transitioning our impacted Sprint CDMA customers by the end of this year and provided our partners plenty of time and resources to take care of their customers as well.

Recently it’s become increasingly clear that some of those partners haven’t followed through on their responsibility to help their customers through this shift. So, we’re stepping up on their behalf. We have made the decision to extend our deadline for the CDMA sunset by three months to March 31, 2022…Our reason for extending is simple: we want to give those partners who haven’t done the right thing for their customers every opportunity to step up now and do so.

There should be no more room for excuses.

I’ve updated my page on major networks’ 3G phaseouts to reflect the new plan.


Hat tip to Eli Blumenthal who tweeted about T-Mobile’s announcement.

Calendar visual

Dates For T-Mobile & Sprint’s 3G Phase-Outs

T-Mobile has been moving towards phasing out its 3G network for some time, but until recently, the company had not committed to a specific date. In a recently published webpage, T-Mobile shared a deadline of July 1, 2022 for shutting down its native 3G network. Here’s an excerpt from the page:

  • As of January 1, 2022 Sprint’s older 3G (CDMA) network will be retired
  • As of June 30, 2022 Sprint’s LTE network will be retired
  • As of July 1, 2022 T-Mobile’s older 3G UMTS network will be retired

We’ve also shared that we plan to retire T-Mobile’s older GSM 2G network as well, but no date has been set. We will update this page with any additional information in the future.

With T-Mobile’s latest announcement, all of the major US networks now have dates set for their 3G phase-outs. I won’t be shocked if one or more of those dates are pushed back.


Credit to Mike Dano of Light Reading who tweeted and posted about this topic.

Picture poorly representing the concept of identity theft

T-Mobile Admits Customers’ Personal Data Was Hacked

Today, T-Mobile shared another press release about its recent security breach. In today’s release, T-Mobile finally acknowledged that customers’ personal data was definitely compromised.

T-Mobile shared details about the scope of the breach:

Our preliminary analysis is that approximately 7.8 million current T-Mobile postpaid customer accounts’ information appears to be contained in the stolen files, as well as just over 40 million records of former or prospective customers who had previously applied for credit with T-Mobile.

While sensitive information was compromised, it looks like financial details, including credit card numbers, were safe:

We have no indication that the data contained in the stolen files included any customer financial information, credit card information, debit or other payment information…Some of the data accessed did include customers’ first and last names, date of birth, SSN, and driver’s license/ID information.

My biggest question now is whether T-Mobile has a good justification for keeping former customers’ SSNs on file.

Image reading "system hacked"

Huge Data Breach At T-Mobile

Yesterday, Joseph Cox at Motherboard reported that a hacker was trying to sell stolen data from 100 million T-Mobile customers. The compromised information isn’t trivial:

The data includes social security numbers, phone numbers, names, physical addresses, unique IMEI numbers, and driver licenses information, the seller said. Motherboard has seen samples of the data, and confirmed they contained accurate information on T-Mobile customers.

The hacker allegedly downloaded all of the data locally before losing access to T-Mobile’s servers.

Today, T-Mobile issued an evasive press release and acknowledged that its systems were compromised (emphasis mine):

We have been working around the clock to investigate claims being made that T-Mobile data may have been illegally accessed…We have determined that unauthorized access to some T-Mobile data occurred, however we have not yet determined that there is any personal customer data involved. We are confident that the entry point used to gain access has been closed…Until we have completed this assessment we cannot confirm the reported number of records affected or the validity of statements made by others.

Bullshit. Customers’ personal data was compromised. T-Mobile knows it.

I won’t be surprised if this data breach ultimately ends up looking similar in magnitude to the infamous 2017 Equifax fiasco. T-Mobile’s stock closed today about 3% down from its closing price on Friday.1

Update:
Lawrence Abrams at BleepingComputer shared an article with additional information and rumors. Here’s one interesting bit:

The threat actor claims to have hacked into T-Mobile’s production, staging, and development servers two weeks ago, including an Oracle database server containing customer data…’Their entire IMEI history database going back to 2004 was stolen,’ the hacker told BleepingComputer.
Calendar with a date pinned

Sprint’s LTE Network Retirement Set For June 2022

Mike Dano of Light Reading recently reported that T-Mobile plans to shut down Sprint’s LTE network by June 30, 2022.

Ever since T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, I’ve been wondering when Sprint’s LTE network would go offline entirely. I’m not convinced the June 30 date will stay in place. These sorts of deadlines tend to get pushed back. Often repeatedly.

As we get closer to the final days of Sprint’s LTE network, I expect we’ll gradually see the network lose power as T-Mobile repurposes Sprint’s assets for T-Mobile’s own network.

Old cell phones

T-Mobile Offering Free 5G Phones

Today, T-Mobile announced that it’ll offer customers the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G more-or-less for free.

The A32 has a regular price of $282 and is substantially less fancy than most of the 5G phones on the market. Still, from the bit I’ve heard about it, the A32 seems like a solid entry-level device.

Both new and existing customers can take advantage of the promotion by trading in a phone. Any working phone is sufficient as a trade-in:

This offer applies to new and existing customers, and ANY old phone in working condition — flip phone, Sidekick, whatever that suitcase phone was called. T-Mobile will take it.

Detailed Terms

The deal will be available starting April 18. Customers that take advantage of the promotion will get monthly bill credits for 24 months that effectively cancel out the usual $11.75 per month customers would have to pay for the A32 on an installment plan. Tax on the usual $282 price is due at the time of purchase.

Customers that cancel service before receiving all the monthly credits will be responsible for the unpaid portion of the A32’s cost.

5G Marketing

While T-Mobile’s network is worse than AT&T and Verizon’s networks in many respects, T-Mobile is the clear leader in 5G. T-Mobile has the most 5G coverage and arguably leads in 5G speeds. The company’s decision to offer free 5G phones looks like part of a larger goal of building hype around T-Mobile’s 5G dominance.

Representation of a bait-and-switch

Post Redacted

4/1/2021 Update: I’m backpedaling from this post. While I’m still unsure what’s going on, T-Mobile likely is grandfathering subscribers into its hotspot plan, contrary to what a customer reported a T-Mobile rep said. From the start, I shouldn’t have taken what the rep said (or allegedly said) as gospel.

Data abstract

T-Mobile Connect Increases Data Allotments

T-Mobile recently increased the data allotments on its Connect plans by 500MB. The $15 per month plan now includes 2.5GB of data each month. The data allotment on the $25 plan has been bumped up to 5.5GB.

The data increases are consistent with the commitments T-Mobile made to regulators when pushing for approval of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger. We should see additional 500MB increases each of the next several years. T-Mobile has said the Connect plans will be available without any price increases until at least 2025.

I continue to think the Connect plans offer some of the best value on the market.


H/T to Stettson Doggett who spotted the change to the Connect plans.

Confused person

“Premium Data” Is Losing Meaning At T-Mobile

For a while now, Verizon and AT&T have used the phrase “Premium Data” to refer to allotments of especially high-priority data. Subscribers with Premium Data may experience better speeds than other network users during periods of congestion.

In the last month, T-Mobile has started using the phrase “Premium Data” as well. If you go to T-Mobile’s primary page listing the carrier’s plans, you’ll find a table that lists the allotments of premium data on different plans:

Common sense might lead you to think “Premium Data” means the same thing regardless of what plan the Premium Data is attached to. That’s not the case.

Before T-Mobile started using the phrase Premium Data, the company made it clear that the Essentials plan had lower priority data than Magenta plans. The image below comes from T-Mobile’s old plans page:

Screenshot showing Essentials customers may experience slower speeds during congestion

While T-Mobile updated how plans appear on its website, it doesn’t look like the underlying characteristics of the Essentials plan changed. The plans page still has a disclosure explaining that Essentials customers have lower priority than Magenta customers:

Essentials customers may notice speeds lower than other customers and further reduction if using >50GB/mo., due to data prioritization.

QCI values indicate how traffic is prioritized on LTE networks. In 2020, I found the Essentials plan had a QCI of 7 while the Magenta plan had a QCI of 6 (indicating that the Magenta subscribers have higher-priority data than Essentials subscribers). Once T-Mobile started saying Essentials customers have Premium Data, I ran another QCI test on the plan. I still found a QCI of 7.

Test result showing a QCI of 7

Until recently, T-Mobile did a better job disclosing prioritization policies than the other major networks.1 T-Mobile is taking a step back by suggesting the Essentials plan has Premium Data.

As far as I know, Verizon and AT&T only use the phrase “Premium Data” to mean something like: “data prioritized ahead of the data used by a substantial portion of our other customers.” If my understanding of data prioritization on T-Mobile’s network is accurate, Essentials customers receive priority on-par with or worse than most T-Mobile Prepaid, Metro, and Mint Mobile subscribers.

While Essentials subscribers aren’t truly last in line, only a tiny fraction of T-Mobile subscribers have lower priority (e.g., some ultra-heavy data users and people on hotspot connections). It’s silly to call data “premium” when indicating something like: “data that’s not absolutely the lowest priority in the queue.”

As I’ve argued before, consumers ought to have access to better information about prioritization and congestion. The way T-Mobile is using the phrase “Premium Data” is going leave consumers confused. For what it’s worth, I don’t mean to suggest T-Mobile is intentionally hoping to mislead consumers about data priority on the Essentials plan. T-Mobile may have made an honest mistake when coming up with the latest iteration of its plans page.


Hat tip to Stetson Doggett for drawing my attention to this topic.