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In a Monday morning press release announcing an aggressively priced new wireless smartphone plan T-Mobile jokes that you might want to get a fake ID.
Not to prove you've come of drinking age, but rather you reached the age bracket to qualify for the T-Mobile One Unlimited 55+ plan, a monthly two-line unlimited plan for Baby Boomers that costs $60, taxes and fees included.
A single person 55 or older pays $50 for the first line. The second person—who can be "underage" in this scenario—pays just $10 more. To qualify for the lower rates, you'll have to enroll in auto pay.
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The new plan, which kicks in August 9, really is targeted at empty nesters—a third person in a household would have to pay full price.
The savings under T-Mobile's 55+ plan can be significant. The current regular T-Mobile One offering costs $70 a month for a single line, or, under a temporary promotion, $100 a month for two lines. The regular two-line fee is $160.
T-Mobile's outspoken CEO John Legere says that the carriers have long "patronized" this older segment of the market, the very folks he says that "invented wireless." Rivals, he says, offer senior-oriented plans that curtail the number of voice minutes and data. The T-Mobile 55+ plan comes with unlimited, talk, text and 4G LTE data.
According to T-Mobile, nearly three-fourths of the more than 93 million Americans in the U.S. over the age of 55 have a smartphone, with Boomers spending an average of 149 minutes a day on handsets, compared to the 171 minutes consumed by Millennials.
Older smartphone consumers haven't been completely ignored. I recently wrote about Consumer Cellular, a Portland, Ore., company that ironically leases lines from T-Mobile (as well as AT&T) under a reseller agreement known to the industry as an MVNO, shorthand for Mobile Virtual Network Operator.
Consumer Cellular sells no-frills senior-phones and offers discounted service to the AARP crowd, though its customers can also purchase iPhones and a few other higher-priced models. It has monthly voice minute plans that start at just $10, with the average customer paying around $25. But it doesn't offer an unlimited data plan, and its $40 max data plan caps at 5GB, after which each extra gig costs $10.
T-Mobile says customers who qualify for its new 55+ plan, can use any of the smartphones the company sells, iPhones, Samsung devices and other top-tier models. And they get the benefits other T-Mobile customers do, including unlimited text and data roaming and low calling rates in more than 140 countries, help with the cost of switching to T-Mobile from a rival carrier, and mobile "hotspot" tethering.
There are some fine print details to keep in mind. Tethering is at poky "3G" speeds. And T-Mobile says video typically streams at 480P resolution, with speeds slowed down until the next bill cycle during congested periods for the top 3% of data users. A SIM starter kit for customers who want to bring their own smartphones, costs $25.
T-Mobile hopes to crack a Verizon Wireless-AT&T stronghold, with the top two U.S. carriers controlling about 80% of this Boomer segment. While T-Mobile claims 18% of all U.S. wireless customers, it has just 8% of this older group.