T-Mobile had attracted more new wireless customers over the past three years than the rest of its competitors combined, but its subscriber base still skews younger and more urban than the industry as a whole. So T-Mobile this week will try to close the gap with a deep discount for people age 55 and up.
Starting on Wednesday, new or existing senior customers will be able to sign up for T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan for $50 for one line or $60 for two lines, versus usual prices of $70 and $120 (though currently, the carrier has a limited-time offer of two lines for $100). That’s among the best deals of any kind across the entire wireless market.
Under CEO John Legere, T-Mobile has had great success attracting new customers, but growth is slowing. In the first half of this year, the carrier added 2.2 million customers to its branded service down from 3.2 million in the same period of 2016. And its stock, which gained almost 50% last year, is up 12% so far in 2017.
The real challenge may be retooling and retargeting T-Mobile’s loud, brash ad campaigns to get the attention of the Baby Boomers and not just millennials. Typical ads have featured music stars like Drake and Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian. And CEO Legere, himself a Baby Boomer, is known for dressing in hot pink sneakers and tee shirts and occasionally swearing at public events and on Twitter.
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“It has resonated like crazy with millennials and with folks in really big markets and in the core of those markets,” Andrew Sherrard, chief commercial officer at T-Mobile, says before mentioning the new focus on seniors. While T-Mobile has about 18% of all wireless subscribers, it captures only 8% of the older segment. “We have a huge opportunity to get the word out among this segment.”
Pitches for the plan, called “T-Mobile One Unlimited 55+,” will be targeted to older people online using data from the likes of Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGL), as well as advertising billboards and displays in suburban areas, Sherrard said. “Depending in your age, you may or may not see it,” he said. “It might start a wave of new fake IDs—people will want to be 55 now,” Sherrard joked.
T-Mobile’s (TMUS) new offer targets empty nesters who may have just finally removed their kids from their wireless plans. While AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) charge only slightly more than T-Mobile for four or five lines, the differences are more dramatic for one or two lines.
The AARP, previously known as the American Association of Retired Persons, offers plans for its members from Consumer Cellular that, for example, cost $70 for one line with unlimited talk and 5 GB of data per month. Consumer Cellular leases airwaves from AT&T.
And the larger carriers’ special low-cost senior plans seem out a different era, with minute limits and a lack of data. Verizon’s over-65 plan, for example, runs on basic phones and includes 200 talk minutes for $30 a month. Texts are 20 cents each.
“No Facetime, no Netflix, no checking a map for directions,” Sherrard says. “Zero data makes zero sense.”