It's no secret that T-Mobile is trailing behind its competitors as the 4th biggest nationwide carrier here in the States. In fact, it seems that no matter what they do (being Android's #1 supporter for one), they can never seem to gain enough traction on the other carriers. So it comes to no surprise that T-Mobile is prepping a game changing feature that'll allow them to skip out of 4th and completely re-ignite the wireless market. The question is, what will that game changer be?

T-Mobile's Project Dark (or Project Black) is purported to be the ace in the hole for T-Mobile. There are rumors abound suggesting that it most definitely is game changing, but no one really knows what it's going to be. Some are even speculating the spectacular--that the iPhone is on its way to T-Mobile (not going to happen). But we think even the iPhone isn't big enough for this announcement --T-Mobile will need something truly shocking.

More reasonable suggestions of what Project Dark is, is that T-Mobile is prepping successive launches for their most anticipated handsets (Motorola CLIQ, Samsung Behold II, Blackberry 9700) along with a hyper-launch of T-Mobile's 21Mbps HSPA+ super-3G network. Having top-end handsets with the absolute fastest 3G network in the US is certainly noteworthy. But the best and what we think most game changing feature would be is the report that T-Mobile is planning to launch a $50 all-you-can-eat rate plan that'll give users unlimited SMS, MMS, and data along with your usual slew of minutes. Can you imagine every other carrier scrambling to respond to that? The whole industry would be shaken up (and we reap the benefits!).

As far as we know, T-Mobile is planning to launch Project Dark by the end of this month (October 25th being the date everyone is pointing to). Is it possible to fulfill impossible hype?

What do you want Project Dark to be?

 [via bgr, tmonews]


Reader comments

What Is T-Mobile's Project Dark aka Project Black?


Sounds good but I'm just thinking about the minutes they will give you for $50. I have UNLIMITED calling for 49.99 plus the Unlimited Data/Web and Text is 34.99 so hopefully its a good amount of minutes I might switch to it.

21 megabit? Really? What I'd like to know is, what is that going to translate to in real-world download speeds? I don't know what T-Mo's current UMTS equipment is rated at but I've never pulled down anything faster than 1.9 Mb, and that was in suburbia where I was probably sharing a tower with about a dozen other people. Right now, I'm sitting in an office in downtown Chicago where I always get a full 4 bars of 3G (-65dBm at the moment) on my G1. A quick test using DSL Reports' mobile speed test reveals an embarrassing 518 and then 918 kbits. Not even a meg! Worse though is the 300+ millisecond ping time. I can ping our Tokyo office in 200 ms.

You want a game-changer? Dear Project Dark: Please tackle the latency problems inherent in cellular networks so I can load a page in under 15 seconds. Then, when you're done with that, please publish/advertise REALISTIC download speeds the next time you want to launch a new network technology. I'll eat a shoe if any commercially available handset in the US sees 21 Mb downloads in the next five years.

Given T-Mo's connectivity problems, the full monty plan is probably worth only $50. Network expansion and upgrades should be their highest priority. That can be done by building increasingly expensive facilities or by joining forces with other providers. Given the economic and legislative climate, the logical way to do this is for the cell providers to abandon their proprietary networks and predatory contracts. T-Mo is in a good position to take the lead here. I would like to see more open networks, universal phones and flexible contracts. It's not as far-fetched as you might think.

Put yourself in T-Mobile USA's shoes for a moment: rumor has it that the guys who pay the bills aren't happy. History, happenstance, and the realities of electromagnetics have left you with an oddball 3G frequency that literally no other carrier in the world uses (at least, not for HSPA). Larger competitors don't take you as seriously as you'd like, and you don't have smaller ones -- they're all regionals who don't play in the same space you do. So what's your next move?

Rumors have been swirling the past few days about a "Project Dark" (or "Black," depending on who you believe) that revolves around a few key strategies designed to turn the entire industry upside down by rapidly pilfering market share from T-Mobile's competition -- possibly to the point of leapfrogging Sprint. The first element to this is allegedly a barrage of data-rich devices including two Nokia Nseries (the N900 being one of them) and a continued heavy push to stay the Android market leader through introductions like the Motorola CLIQ and Samsung Behold II. We're totally cool with that part -- T-Mobile's investing heavily in its 3G market lately, literally lighting up new markets every few days, and it only makes sense that they'd want devices ready and able to take advantage of those speeds. The next part says that Dark will see 21Mbps HSPA+ get rolled out at a breakneck pace, presumably designed to put pressure on AT&T which is still in the midst of a less sensational 7.2Mbps introduction. Neither the handset strategy nor the 21Mbps plans are really baseless rumors; with the exception of a single unnamed Nokia, all of the phones mentioned for Dark are very real, and T-Mobile's senior vice president of engineering operations has gone on record committing to a national HSPA+ rollout next year. It's all happening -- call it Dark, Black, Light, Blue, Magenta, whatever you want.

That brings us to the final tenet of Dark, which has T-Mobile planning a blockbuster $50 all-you-can-eat plan that would undercut its nearest national competitor -- Sprint, with its Simply Everything plan -- by a ridiculous $50 (AT&T's recently-announced unlimited prepaid plan comes in at $60, but it lacks data, the most critical element here). Sounds enticing, doesn't it? Too good to be true, even, but we don't doubt T-Mobile would do it just to shake things up, especially since they've always had a reputation for undercutting the competition.

Unfortunately, it's a fool's game -- and if it happens, we're pretty sure it's going to end in tears. Here's why:

* Boost Mobile -- operating on Nextel's historically robust network -- had bouts of trouble with the influx of subscriber adds brought about by its own $50 unlimited plan, and that was on a totally different scale: the phones aren't nearly as interesting and 3G data simply doesn't exist. When potential customers realize they can get, say, an N900 or a CLIQ and stream Pandora or until the cows come home for that same $50, there'll be a run on stores, riots in the streets, overturned cars, the whole nine yards. And that's before 10,000 new customers a day get home, turn on their phones, start downloading apps, make Skype calls, and cause cell sites to spontaneously combust.
* Capping your potential revenue per customer at $50 a month isn't a recipe for heavy capital reinvestment, which is exactly what T-Mobile will need a lot of to make good on Dark -- and fast. In fact, both Verizon and AT&T have total ARPUs (average revenue per user) above the $50 mark already, and T-Mobile's current postpaid ARPU is up there, too. Translation: excluding a subscriber influx, T-Mobile would be taking in less money per postpaid customer than it is now while offering considerably (infinitely?) more service. Including the inevitable influx, sure, revenue goes through the roof -- but profit is a huge question mark.
* One of T-Mobile's hallmarks has been stellar customer service. Historically, the carrier has never offered the biggest coverage footprint or the biggest handset selection, but you could basically always count on 'em to take care of you. Think they'll be able to keep that reputation intact with one-third again as many subscribers within a few months' time?
* We're not doubting that T-Mobile is planning its 3G network (whether it be HSPA or HSPA+) for increased capacity, but the magnitude of advanced planning and expense that would be required to accommodate the number of high data consumption adds brought about by a plan this cheap would be truly staggering. It's the perfect storm -- the carrier would be simultaneously adding the most powerful devices it's ever offered and dramatically undercutting its closest competition on plan pricing, and the resulting strain would be picked up by an untested network.
* Network build-outs are measured in months or years, not days. If markets start imploding because T-Mobile realizes it doesn't actually have the infrastructure to suddenly be the number two or three carrier, that's not a problem it can solve quickly -- or cheaply.

In a perfect world, we'd all have Cortex A9-powered phones running the mega-powerful operating system of your choice with 2GB of internal RAM and a 4.5-inch WVGA display hooked up to a network offering all-you-can-eat voice, data, and messaging in exchange for the pennies and lint in our pockets, but the cold, hard realities of spectrum allocation, technology, and the surly bonds of capitalism conspire to make it impossible. We beg of you, T-Mobile -- for the good of your network and your customers -- don't pull the trigger on this unless you're absolutely positive you've covered every contingency (and history suggests you've got some work to do there).

Just wait and see what it is! T-Mobile is the best of the big 4 and they are the only ones that care about their customers. As far as problems with their network ask J.D. Powers and Associates where do they rank them compared to the other 3. Also, they will have the fastest network shortly! I love T-Mobile and will stick with them for life.

It's obvious what Project Black is.

Project Black is short for Project Blackout: they're going to erase all your data. Duh.

These guys at Tmobile are pretty funny they don´t have 3G in 1/4 of the US and they talk about all that speed..LOL,LOL...Come on give me a break,just make sure the whole country can enjoy 3G,after that start talking about speed.
One more thing,here in Saint Louis,MO 3G feels in some areas just like EDGE...just so you know Tmo reps.

Well, now I have a good reason to put my plans to sign up for T-Mobile on hold. Well, at least till the end of the month.

And then you have another month or three to see if any carriers will match. So just sit on your hands for the rest of the year.

50 bucks and I am in...I will dump Sprint so fast they won't know what hit them. Finally a great deal and the end to the rising prices we have seen. Sprint has been forcing people to new and more expensive plans to get the latest phones...can't wait to tell them to stick it.

I think this will set t-mobile apart from any other carrier. I believe if this "all-u-can-eat" plan will be available everyone i know will get it right away, and to add to that they will have the new blackberry 9700 which many people to switch to.

project black...i think tmo might merge with some cable company. i know insiders and i see a cheap unlimited plan on the way. but the data for smart phones and blackberry will continue to be 25 and 35. the data included in plan will be web2go. i say cable company, because of @home service, and all the phone with wifi and uma calling?????definitely a slew of big time, legit phones are on the way .. and the reps threads will be changed to black shirts and grey pants. hopefully tmo can handle the huge influx that will take out metro and boost...and hopefully tmo surpasses sprint. should be very interesting to watch unfold..and hopefully tmo comes out with some great marketing commericials to get the word out about dark project..

Sounds good but I'm just thinking about the minutes they will give you for $50. I have UNLIMITED calling for 49.99 plus the Unlimited Data/Web and Text is 34.99 so hopefully its a good amount of minutes I might switch to it.

The project dark is Sprint and T-Mobile merging together. The dark clothing is the taking on the black persona that Sprint goes by. I guess you can say being that Sprint is a US based company, the best way for the two trailing companies to compete "globally" is by merging. There you have it! And on "black sunday" is the kickoff of some pretty neat "black colored" phones. There! I spilled the beans!

Tmobile is loosing the PR battle. It is precieved that their network is second grade. Black Project does not address this issue in the long term. This will amount to lots of activations early, but in the long term, if the big two carriers feel threatened then they can simply match Tmobile's plan, and then T-mobile is in the same situation. In the short term, I wonder if Tmobile will be able to handle the extra use of the network. I had many friends complain about the drop calls when Flex pay started, so I dont know. Also, If T-mobile is trying to compete with Cricket/Boost/Metro PCS, then they as an organization have complex issues. I feel the big players treat these regional carriers as fly's, not much of a threat. Time will tell, but I think Tmobile will regret this, because it will be hard to raise prices after you give away everything for $60/month.

Soooo....almost time for the big announcement! Tmobile ROCKS! I loved them many years before I was a care rep. Still love them after working in retail. And you will all love them EVEN MORE on Oct. 25th! Phones, plans, coverage, customer service....what more can you ask for. We love our customers and appreciate every single one of you. Thank you and enjoy EVEN MORE from Tmobile!

T-mobile is been walking for a long long time but its about a big jump...with the plan, phone, and coverage and mobile makeover..

Well, its the 25th. I'm excited about any news about "project dark". In my opinion, all the speculations and rumors we have seen about "dark" have been true. There was a recent massive 3g upgrade all over the place (I should know, my town of Fresno, Ca just hit 3g about 2 weeks ago). The leaked list for that is fairly accurate. The new phones are coming out fast (CLIQ is available bow if your already a t-mobile customer. Also, they re-did their website, and have posted their "even more" and "even more plus" plans, including financing on the coolest phones and plans with no contracts.

I have to agree that they should work on connection issues and productivity of 3g expansion before pushing the "super 3g". I would love for the 7.2 speeds, but I'm alright where I'm at on G1 phone with the new 3g here, for now.

T-Mobile is the best phone provider I have ever had. Best phone, coverage, and customer service. (AT&t can kiss my shiny white rear end)