T-Mobile was hit by a data breach affecting around 2 million customers

T-Mobile has announced that on August 20th, the company was hit by hackers who were able to gain access to personal information from roughly 2 million customers, including the name, billing zip code, phone number, email address, account number, and account type of users. According to the company, more sensitive information — financial data, Social Security numbers, and passwords — weren’t compromised in the hack.

T-Mobile gave a statement on the breach, saying anyone whose data has been stolen either has been or shortly will be notified via a text message. So if you’re T-Mobile customer and you haven’t gotten an alert, you’re probably safe.

T-Mobile hasn’t given a concrete number of how many customers have had their information compromised, although in a statement given to Motherboard, a T-Mobile spokesperson noted that the hack affected “about” or “slightly less than” 3 percent of the carrier’s 77 million customers (which works out to around 2 million users).

T-Mobile is reportedly asking smaller carriers to publicly support its acquisition of Sprint

T-Mobile is asking smaller carriers that run services on its mobile network to publicly come out in favor of the company’s proposed merger with Sprint, according to Reuters. T-Mobile has requested that these mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) take steps that range from filing FCC comments in favor of the deal to publishing editorials in news publications.

The company is also providing MVNOs with a number of talking points that match its own reasoning for why a merger between the third- and fourth-largest US carriers would be positive for consumers and the mobile industry. Accelerating the buildout of 5G is at the top of that list.

MVNOs that operate on T-Mobile’s network include TracFone and subsidiary Straight Talk, Google’s Project Fi, Ting, Republic Wireless, Mint Mobile, Ladybug Wireless, CellNUVO, and more. Reuters spoke to Consumer Cellular CEO John Marick, who said that he received an email from T-Mobile US “asking if he was willing to submit a comment to the FCC.” Marick didn’t feel pressured by the request.

Critics of the proposed $26 billion T-Mobile/Sprint merger, which would result in T-Mobile effectively taking control of Sprint, believe it would ultimately raise prices for consumers. Both the FCC and antitrust regulators at the Justice Department have begun examining the deal. The two carriers say they expect the merger to successfully close in early 2019.

T-Mobile will reportedly sell the OnePlus 6T, marking OnePlus’ first major US carrier deal

We’re still weeks away from the rumored October announcement of the OnePlus 6T, but the Chinese smartphone company’s next flagship might offer a big change from its predecessors: a deal with T-Mobile that would make it the first major US carrier to offer one of OnePlus’ devices, according to a report from CNET.

OnePlus already has some carrier partnerships in Europe, but a T-Mobile deal would be a first for OnePlus in the states, and offer the less-than-well-known company a better chance to get its phones (and brand) out to customers who haven’t heard of it before. In the past, OnePlus has sold all of its devices in the US unlocked and directly to customers.

The T-Mobile version of the OnePlus 6T is said to be optimized specifically for T-Mobile’s network — including support for the 600MHz band of spectrum that the carrier acquired last year to offer better service — although the regular international version will also be offered from OnePlus itself.

CNET’s report does caution that OnePlus is still in the middle of the “technical approval” process with T-Mobile, meaning that the deal isn’t quite set in stone just yet. But if it does happen, it could be a major step forward for OnePlus’ attempts to break into the mainstream US market.

T-Mobile is completely overhauling how its customer service works

T-Mobile announced its latest “Un-carrier” initiative today in a fresh attempt to gain new subscribers and lure customers away from rival providers. And it focuses on a crucial, but less flashy subject than the company’s past splashes: customer service. From a stage in Charleston, South Carolina — and after being escorted into the room by a marching band — CEO John Legere kicked off an event that led to the announcement of Team of Experts, a new approach to customer service that will give customers in different regions of the US their own dedicated “team” of customer care representatives who offer quick, efficient assistance. No robot voices and no confusing tree of push-button menus.

Team of Experts launches today for T-Mobile’s postpaid customers. It can be accessed by dialing 611 or by messaging directly from the T-Mobile app or iMessage using Apple Business Chat. For now, Team of Experts is English-only, but it will be available in Spanish in early 2019.

“The first thing when I did when I became CEO of this company is I spent every night sitting at home listening to both sides of customer service calls,” Legere said. “I listed, we acted, and we heard. That’s the foundation for what we’re going to do today.”

Moments later, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert took the stage to criticize the “massive digital fortress between you and the people who can help you” that is a central part of customer service from most major companies. T-Mobile recruited Rainn Wilson to film a pretty great spot (seen above) that showcases average, miserable customer service experiences. Sievert pointed to bots, call center runarounds, and obvious, unhelpful reminders about finding answers on the internet as widespread problems.

Then came Callie Field, T-Mobile’s executive VP of customer care, who said “we’ve fixed it,” and went into the details of Team of Experts.

How Team of Experts works

“You’ll never be bounced from department to department, you’ll have a team of experts that will completely own your experience end to end,” Field said. “If you call back the next day, it’s going to go right back to the same team. They’re going to make sure that it is solved and that you’re happy with the resolution.”

T-Mobile’s new customer service teams are divided by geography. Each person on a team is “highly trained to handle a wide range of topics, sometimes working with specialists including local retail and engineering to solve even the most complex issues,” according to the company. Members of each team all work in close proximity at the customer care center, according to Field. You might not talk to the same person every time, but they should be up to date on what you’ve called about previously.

Customers can reach their Team of Experts from 7AM to 9PM local time by phone or messaging. “In early 2019, postpaid customers will get Team of Experts support 24/7,” the company says. (Standard customer service is available 24/7) They also have the option to schedule calls for a convenient time. This is actually the default approach that T-Mobile seems to prefer. “If you don’t pick up the phone, that’s cool, we’ll call you 5 minutes later. And if you’re busy then too, we’ll call 5 minutes after that,” Field said.

An example of a T-Mobile Team of Experts.

Team of Experts doesn’t mean you’ll always call a number and start talking to a live human instantly. “Sometimes there’s some things you can’t avoid — like wait times. Because let’s face it, sometimes your team’s just busy,” Field acknowledged. “The difference is that when we’re busy, we’ll promise to you that we’ll handle you in a way that puts your time first. Our default option is that when you call, instead of waiting for us, schedule a time and we’ll call you back. So it’s your time — not our time — that matters.”

This isn’t (yet) completely phasing out T-Mobile’s current support infrastructure; the standard options — including automated menus — will remain available for those who prefer them.

Rewinding to earlier, Legere clearly relished his first live presentation in some time, berating and taking his signature hold-no-punches digs at T-Mobile’s competition. “We’re in what I’d call the post-unlimited/pre-5G era,” Legere said. “It’s been a year since the industry, I would say, shit themselves and all went to unlimited.” Legere was referencing the industry-wide return to unlimited data after T-Mobile launched its T-Mobile One plan in 2016.

The moves are T-Mobile’s latest effort to keep up the pressure against Verizon and AT&T. The company claims it has led the industry for 18 straight quarters in adding postpaid mobile customers, taking on 686,000 new subscribers in the most recent quarter.

T-Mobile, the third-largest US carrier, is also hoping to successfully push through a merger with fourth-place Sprint; both carriers insist that the deal would expedite the buildout of a robust, nationwide 5G network and lead to healthier, more balanced competition with their two much larger competitors.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Last month, the FCC began accepting public comments on the proposed merger. The Justice Department is currently examining how T-Mobile buying Sprint — leaving consumers with fewer mobile provider choices in the process — might impact prices for smaller carriers in the United States.

Some of T-Mobile’s earlier Un-carrier efforts — the end of two-year contracts and device subsidies, phasing out data overage charges, and zero-rating popular streaming services — have reverberated throughout the US mobile industry and led Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint to at times copy or put their own spin on T-Mobile’s ideas for “shaking up” the carrier model.

T-Mobile quietly launches free 30-day trials of its network in three cities

T-Mobile says it has added more new postpaid customers than its rivals each quarter for several years running, and to keep that momentum going, the company is again trying to squash negative perceptions about its network’s reliability and coverage. T-Mobile is now offering free trials of its service in Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; and Boston, Massachusetts. The company made no mention of this new program during today’s Uncarrier event.

Unlike the nationwide Test Drive program that T-Mobile ran in 2014, where people could use an iPhone 5S that had T-Mobile service, this time, testers will get a portable Wi-Fi hot spot with a SIM inside. You’ll have to connect the device you’re testing to that to get a sense of T-Mobile’s network performance and scope of coverage. But you’re getting more flexibility in that you can use whatever phone you want with the hot spot, and you’re also getting more time. Test Drive was only a 7-day trial; this one lasts 30 days or until you hit 30GB of data — whichever comes first.

If you live in one of the three markets and sign up, T-Mobile will mail you the hot spot with two-day shipping. The free trial doesn’t cost anything or even require a temporary hold, at least according to the T-Mobile site that makes no mention of charges. The fine print only says that participants can expect to get emails about their free trial.

There’s no word on whether T-Mobile’s new free trial will expand to other regions. It’s a nice offer for people in these areas who have considered switching — perhaps for better customer service. But major cities have never really been the main holdup with T-Mobile’s service; it’s the suburbs and countryside that have, in the past, made service gaps between T-Mobile and Verizon / AT&T more pronounced.

T-Mobile launches a cheaper unlimited phone plan for just the ‘essentials’

T-Mobile announced today that it’s launching a new mobile plan for people who only use their smartphones for the bare necessities. The plan is called T-Mobile Essentials, and it covers talk, text, and data for cheap — but there’s a catch.

This unlimited talk, text, and data plan will cost $30 per line for a family of four ($10 less than T-Mobile’s other basic plan T-Mobile ONE), but the discount comes at a cost of quality. Streaming quality is what will suffer the most. In fact, the company points out that at times and places with “heavy network demand,” Essentials customers will be the first to see slower speeds. And if they use upwards of 50 gigabytes of data each month, internet speeds and video quality may be throttled even further. Video “typically” streams at 480p, the company said in its press release. (That’s the quality of a standard DVD. Yuck.)

T-Mobile Essential, like its other plans, also costs more if you do not plan to opt into the family deal: the package starts at $60 for a single line, $30 for the second, and an extra $15 for every additional line added to the plan. Features offered with the T-Mobile One plan, including in-flight texting and unlimited music streaming, will not be available on T-Mobile Essentials.

T-Mobile signs $3.5 billion deal with Nokia for 5G technology

T-Mobile and Nokia have announced a $3.5 billion deal that will see Nokia provide T-Mobile with “complete end-to-end 5G technology, software, and services” as the carrier continues to build out its 5G infrastructure.

“We are all in on 5G,” commented T-Mobile’s chief technology officer Neville Ray in the announcement. Nokia will help build T-Mobile’s 5G network on both the 600 MHz and 28 GHz millimeter wave portions of the spectrum, in accordance with the 3GPP’s 5G New Radio (NR) standards.

It’s a major move forward on both sides of the deal. T-Mobile is one of the first major carries to publicly announce an investment into 5G hardware, and it gives Nokia an edge over fellow 5G networking providers like Ericsson and Huawei, all of which are looking for new opportunities to expand as 4G network growth begins to slow. Plus, it’s yet another concrete sign that we’re finally getting closer to actual 5G networks beginning to roll out in the increasingly near future.