T-Mobile touts ‘Coverage Beyond’ with in-flight, roaming deals

Some of the in-flight deals touted in T-Mobile’s latest “un-carrier” moves sound familiar – like when it offered some in-flight services on certain aircraft years ago, or when it announced international global roaming for free.

But as T-Mobile was quick to point out, it’s now taking it to new extremes.

“You may remember we’ve done some cool things with in-flight connectivity in the past, but this is totally different,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in a pre-recorded video announcing the deals. “More airlines, more flights, full flight coverage versus an hour and better connectivity. This is not that old, spotty Wi-Fi that you remember. The technology has come a long way in the last few years, and it continues to improve.”

In addition to texting and checking voicemail, passengers can stream video – which hasn’t always been the case. Delta, American and Alaska Airlines will launch first on select flights starting June 21, with United Airlines to follow at an unspecified date.  

In all, the Coverage Beyond announcement has three major parts.

One is 5GB of free high-speed data worldwide in more than 210 countries and destinations for customers on the Magenta Max and Business Unlimited Ultimate plans. Another involves the free full in-flight connectivity with streaming, and yet another revolves around travel perks – including 25 cents off per gallon of gasoline (up to 20 gallons) at Shell this summer, a year’s AAA membership and Priceline travel deals.

The series of moves announced today are pretty good value benefits for being a T-Mobile Magenta Max subscriber and they’re as impactful as in the days of former CEO John Legere – unlike attempts like 2020’s Scam Shield, according to 556 Ventures analyst Bill Ho.

The Internet Freedom move that T-Mobile announced in May had the purpose of driving fixed wireless access (FWA) growth and retention, “but today’s was impactful as it increases the value proposition of its flagship Magenta Max and Business Unlimited mobile plans,” he told Fierce.

As for the pieces with the biggest punch, Ho called out the expansion of airline Wi-Fi coverage and allowing for streaming in-flight as an upgrade of the Wi-Fi Unleashed announcement, as well as the expansion of Mobile without Borders to 210 countries and destinations for heavy leisure and global business travelers.

“The key here is the high-speed aspect, albeit with only 5GB. Still, this is a big differentiator in terms of business value against Verizon and AT&T. Having parent DT’s international roaming deals has certainly made it possible,” he said.

The value for the non-global traveler and the partnerships with AAA, Shell and Priceline are all meaningful as of Day 1 for current subscribers, not just Magenta Max customers, Ho noted.  

AT&T and Verizon will need to respond to some or all of this if they want to retain global travelers, he said. “They may not to have to match the 5GB but could drop the per day rate from $10 or something palatable and focus on unlimited beyond 5GB as their value proposition.”

In the end, “this is about targeting a niche and high-value subscriber segment. The benefit of moving them to the T-Mobile flagship plans drives up ARPA/ARPU and likely drives down churn,” Ho said.