Free Service or A La Carte?
February 18, 2007 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Free T-mobile data service, or is there a catch (a la carte service)?

Back in January, I was paying for T-mobile's Blackberry data service ($19.99/mo), but then turned it off due to losing my phone (old backup phone was very basic). Since then, I've found my phone, put in a new SIM card (the old one was deactivated the same day I canceled the Blackberry service) and was surprised to see that I could still use Opera (full version) and was able to pop email. I called T-mobile to see if I might still be paying for a data service, but was told I was not. Am I getting something for free (even if only temporarily?) or is there some kind of a la carte data service T-mobile is offering that I can't find on their website? I'd rather not directly ask T-mobile because, well, I'd like to enjoy the goodtimes while they last. I'm in the Bay Area.
posted by Boydrop to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might want to read up on "theft of services".

My guess is that they made a mistake and your account is still enabled. But using it doesn't leave you off the hook.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:04 PM on February 18, 2007

Response by poster: Hm, I knew the whole ethics issue would pop up . . . I know its "wrong" but in someways it seems as if T-Mobile likes giving away its data services (as it seems to be doing currently with its T-Zones service and has done in the past). I thought this might be an example of that (of a temporary situation that will probably be revoked without warning/reason in the near future). My question wasn't if it is right or wrong, it was if T-Mobile had an a la carte data service.

Perhaps I was a little unclear, I apologize.
posted by Boydrop at 6:13 PM on February 18, 2007

T-MobileWeb, which used to be called T-Zones, is now $5.99 and includes unlimited data on a limited set of ports (but still all the ones you need: web, pop, smtp, exchange, etc)

Total Internet is the same thing but all ports work and it costs $29.99 per month. It's expensive because it's supposed to be used for business apps that need VPN.

It sounds like you have T-MobileWeb.. check your bill to see if you are paying for it.

I don't think T-Mobile has pay-per-use data service.. a complete list of services can be found here:
posted by cmicali at 7:54 PM on February 18, 2007

Do you still use t-mobile, and is it possible that your old phone is tied to your current account? I supposed you might get some answers on the next bill you get...

(or is this what you're asking?)
posted by niles at 8:25 PM on February 18, 2007

Yeah you are using tzones now, they've just made a mistake with you account.
posted by bigmusic at 9:37 PM on February 18, 2007

Best answer: Everyone here is wrong. True story.

I was shocked, shocked I say, to find out that my phone was able to use basic internet functions, knowing for a FACT I was not subscribing to any data plan.

I decided to suck it up and see what the story was, because I didn't want any surprise bill.

Here's the low-down:
T-Mobile offers 100% FREE basic GPRS service anywhere in their STANDARD SERVICE PLAN.

Please read the following very carefully: If you roam to a partner cell site (read: "Cingular" listed in the service banner, instead of "T-Mobile" or "TMO" you WILL EAT a fee of $10.00 per MB. This will suck. You will cry. You will probably get it back, the first time around. You will not let it happen again. Etc.

Here's the good part: In the past few months, I've been to Michigan, New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver and Phoenix, and I've not skipped cell sites yet. Awesome for me.

Conclusion? Browse away. It's slow as hell, but GMail, Opera Mini and Google Maps are serviceable at GPRS speeds. JUST CHECK THE BANNER! (Some phones allow you to turn off "data roaming." Even simpler!)

You are NOT stealing. T-Mobile just doesn't advertise this service as "free."

Call them up, feel free to verify my claim, but I spent > 40 minutes on the phone and had it confirmed several times. To boot, no mention made on my bill at all in 4+ months, and so I'm a happy clam with basic internet access on his phone.
posted by disillusioned at 2:35 AM on February 19, 2007

So if GPRS is free, why on my fiance's phone when I try to visit a WAP site do I get a message saying I need to buy T-MobileWeb for $5.99?

That is in fact how I purchased T-MobileWeb.. That buy-me site came up on my device, I clicked the buy now button, and I was given access.
posted by cmicali at 5:56 AM on February 19, 2007

Now if you had some sweetheart deal from a few years ago they will grandfather it and allow you to have it, even if they don't provide it now, but I don't remember any such free plan (and I've been a tmo customer since it was Voicestream)
posted by cmicali at 5:57 AM on February 19, 2007

Best answer: If you browse around on Howard Forums you can find reports of other people w/ a similar situation (free t-mobile gprs). In theory, everyone is supposed to pay the 5.99 to get gprs access but some people just get lucky for whatever reason and get access w/out paying. Essentially though, it's really just some sort of service loophole and T-mobile may eventually shut you off.

To be safe, I'd call them up and add the t-mobileweb. Some other providers charge pretty hefty fees for à la carte data, and it's possible that t-mobile might try to charge you in the future.
posted by timelord at 7:17 AM on February 19, 2007

Response by poster: Cmicali - Yeah, that's what happened when I turned off the original data service and switched to my back up (crummy phone) and tried access the web via its crappy wap browser - I got the T-Zones signup page. Perhaps if you switched to a phone with a web browser that reads the "real" (non mobile/wap) web, you will be able to access it too.

Thanks timelord and disillusioned for the warning on roaming data - I had completely forgotten about that.

Does anybody know if the T-Zones and/or the "free" gprs data service is slower than a "proper" Blackberry or Hotspot-included data plan? Also, I wonder if all of this is in anticipation of the higher speed (UTMS? I'm confused) service T-mobile is finally supposed to be unrolling (free or cheap gprs vs more expensive 3G? That'd be cool)

Thanks everyone.
posted by Boydrop at 8:37 AM on February 19, 2007

T-Mobile does offer an EDGE capable plan, but the problem with it (in my area [Phoenix] at least, and I've heard plenty about it elsewhere) is that you're not covered often enough for it to be worthwhile. Read: it simply defaults back to basic GPRS anyway, so why bother?

I have no idea about T-Mobile rolling out 3G/UTMS, except to say "not for a while with any reliability, that's for sure."

I'd say call and confirm you're getting the free plan. You don't want to eat any fees, and what they told me was pretty pleasantly surprising.
posted by disillusioned at 9:25 AM on February 19, 2007

Response by poster: If anybody stumbles across this, I have some new info. This morning I was using my phone when the SIM card suddenly stopped being accepted by the network (I got that little message that said 'unauthorized sim' on my phone).

I called up Tmobile and was told that when I lost my original phone my service was "temporarily suspended". After 30 days in suspension, an account is terminated or canceled or something. Well, I got a new SIM card the day after I lost my phone, but for whatever reason, the 30 day countdown was never turned off (why it shut off today). The guy from Customer Service reactivated my account and all was good....

Except I no longer had data access! All the free data goodness seems to be gone - and this after I had gotten used to streaming KPFA while on my morning run. So, not sure exactly what happened, but it seems that when my account was in countdown limbo I was able to access the Internet, but not so much now.

Hope this is helpful to someone out there.
posted by Boydrop at 2:47 PM on February 23, 2007

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