On the eve of its LTE network launch, T-Mobile has made available its new contract-free service plans featuring unlimited data starting at $50 per month. The company calls its new service strategy “UNcarrier,” as it becomes the first major wireless carrier to deviate from phone subsidies and contracts.

Is this enough to lure you away from T-Mobile’s larger, LTE-enabled competition? Let’s take a look at what’s being offered.

Goodbye Contracts, Hello Clear Data Plans

T-Mobile has thrown contracts completely out the window. Every individual plan the carrier offers will be on a month-to-month basis and feature unlimited talk, text, and data. Of course, data comes with its limitations.

The cheapest plan, a reasonable $50 per month, only allots 500MB of “high-speed” 4G data. Once this 500MB limit is hit, T-Mobile will throttle your mobile connection to 2G (GPRS/EDGE) speeds.

If that happens, you might as well just give up on using the web when away of a Wi-Fi connection because 2G speeds will kill any convenience mobile data is meant to offer.

But that’s okay. The company is offering simple and clear data tiers in order to cater to a variety of users.

New Individual Plans (again, each come with unlimited minutes and texts):

  • 500MB of 4G data – $50/month
  • 2GB of 4G data – $60/month
  • Unlimited 4G data – $70/month

Tethering

T-Mobile’s new plans bring tethering out from expensive feature packages and into your plan at no additional charge. While many smartphone users may have found ways to avoid paying the $20 a month tethering fee on other networks by using third-party apps, an action that risks service termination, T-Mobile is including USB tethering and limited Wi-Fi tethering (hotspot) on all of its new plans.

Customers choosing the 500MB or 2GB plans could potentially use all of their monthly data via tethering. Unfortunately, those choosing the $70 unlimited plan will only be allotted 500MB for Wi-Fi tethering. Additional data for on-the-go Wi-Fi sharing will cost $10 per month for each 2GB of service.

Separating Phone and Service

The typical carrier strategy is to sell you a phone at a discounted price by signing you to a two-year service contract. You know how this works: Pay $200 upfront for a new iPhone, which retails for $650, and you’re locked into paying $90 or more per month for two years of service.

T-Mobile has opted to separate phone and service payments. The company has lowered upfront costs and created a two-year monthly payment system for phones. When a customer pays off their phone, their bill is lowered to reflect the change.

I spoke with a T-Mobile representative who informed me that customers will not have to sign a contract for phones, but will be subject to a credit check if they choose to pay monthly. According to the rep, if you wish to return the phone, you may do so with no additional fees.

In order to receive another phone, however, you will be need to go through another credit check, potential upfront fee, and more monthly payments unless you choose to buy a phone outright.

The Future

T-Mobile’s LTE network is late to the show, their smartphone selection is severely lacking, and the company has yet to officially offer the iPhone (only through a BYOD program is it an option). But with a renewed strategy that includes extremely affordable phone and service plans, the company may be able to claw its way into the hearts of those who have been burned by other major carriers.