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T-Mobile executive says company is 'pivoting away' from unlimited data

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Speaking to a crowd of investors at Deutsche Bank's Media, Internet, and Telecom conference on March 7th, T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter suggested that unlimited data could be on its way out the door at the Uncarrier. "We've had and continue to have a strategy of pivoting away from unlimited," Carter said, pointing to the plan's rising cost as an example of that strategy. "Part of what we did with Binge On, again, was another substantial increase in the price of unlimited," he said.

T-Mobile caught a fair bit of criticism for that very quiet price hike, but Carter said it's all part of the plan to shift away from positioning unlimited data as the centerpiece of the company's data plan portfolio. "We pivoted away from using unlimited as our primary promotion mechanism in the prior year," he said. That's not exactly true, however; T-Mobile has recently been heavily advertising its unlimited LTE family plan on television and across the web — at least when not focusing on the "ball buster" campaign that debuted with a Super Bowl ad.

Carter acknowledged there are business advantages to promoting unlimited at the start of the year and "driving as much growth at the very front end of the year." But the message is clear: unlimited data won't be around forever, and even if it sticks around in the short term, it might grow more expensive. "And again I’ll point to the $25 price increase — two times — over the past two years," he said. Last year, the company announced it would no longer tolerate customers abusing the unlimited plan.

Zero-rated programs like Binge On and Music Freedom have hinted at T-Mobile's "pivot," as they're clearly designed to benefit those customers on bucketed data plans more so than unlimited users. "We have seen no difference in data consumption with our unlimited customers. But we have seen not an insignificant increase in data consumption on the part of our bucketed data customers," he said. "The leash is off, and they're certainly consuming more." We've reached out to T-Mobile for clarification on Carter's remarks.