US prepaid brand MetroPCS rebadged itself as Metro by T-Mobile, a move it hopes will boost consumer confidence in the quality of service they can expect to receive and so lift subscriber numbers.
Tom Keys, the operator’s president, told Mobile World Live it aims to overcome a stigma attached to prepaid services by making its connection to parent T-Mobile US clearer: “Most people who think of prepaid think of it as something less, they think of it as a compromise. This is the start of a journey over time to change that perception.”
The executive pointed to internal research which showed three in ten consumers living within range of Metro by T-Mobile distribution points would consider signing up to the old brand, with the remainder citing concerns about the quality of the network. However, when focus groups were exposed to the new name, Keys said they understood the connection to a better network immediately.
He acknowledged MetroPCS played a role in informing the narrative around spotty prepaid service, noting it operated in just 12 cities at launch in 2002. But, he said T-Mobile’s acquisition of the company (agreed in 2012 and completed in 2013) and subsequent overhaul of its network changed everything.
T-Mobile’s network now covers a population of around 322 million, and Keys noted Metro by T-Mobile currently has around 18 million subscribers. The goal of the name change, he added, is to increase the share of people willing to consider its service and, ultimately, boost its subscriber numbers and lower churn.
Along with the new name come fresh tariffs: the company doubled the data included in its $40 plan to 10GB per month and debuted two new unlimited tiers: a $50 option offering unlimited talk, text and data with 5GB of mobile hotspot and cloud storage from Google One; and a $60 package which ups the hotspot allowance to 15GB and adds Amazon Prime to the mix.
Keys said the point at which the operator will begin to slow data rates on its unlimited packages will be 35GB compared with a 50GB limit imposed by T-Mobile. He also acknowledged the parent company’s subscribers will be given priority in the event of network congestion, though noted such bottlenecks are a rarity meaning they are “not something we’re worried about”.
The executive was clear the rebranding effort is unrelated to T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint.
Despite concerns the deal could reduce the number of prepaid options for consumers, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert stated in a recent Federal Communications Commission filing there are no plans to consolidate or eliminate any of T-Mobile or Sprint’s prepaid brands, which include Metro PCS, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile.
Those brands will “play an important role in New T-Mobile’s ability to target different customer segments”, he said.