While there are many personal services and products I value and pay for, there are a few I do not. My Verizon Wireless service falls in the later category. While I value being able to have voice and internet connectivity wherever I go, I will confess to believing this should be a commodity in 2015. Unfortunately contrived carrier plans, artificial restrictions on device portability, and the financing of devices through plans have slowed the commoditization of wireless service. Nothing makes this more clear than paying $240 per month for a family plan for myself, my wife and two boys that includes 2.5GB of shared data. To add insult to injury, each smartphone was purchased on a different date, resulting in different contact expirations - making it impossible to leave Verizon without paying at least some early termination fee.

A couple weekends ago my 9th grader, as part of his Machiavellian plan to acquire an iPhone 6+, lobbied me to switch to T-Mobile as part of their early termination fee program. At first I thought the $100/month plan for four smartphones with unlimited voice, text and 2.5GB of data per person (that’s 10GB of data vs 2.5GB for Verizon) must have some non-obvious restriction. But with an impassioned pitch that will serve my son well in a future VC meeting, I found myself standing in our local T-Mobile store on a Sunday afternoon.

For anyone else making the move, here was our process, all done in store:

  1. Sign up for service - After a quick credit check and signing a few documents, we were T-Mobile customers with no contract commitment.
  2. Purchase phones - T-Mobile requires that you purchase a phone as part of this program. There is oddly enough though no restriction on the type of phone you purchase, nor that you actually use this phone for their network. We purchased four $30 phones that looked straight out of the early 2000s.
  3. Trade in devices - In order to be eligible for T-Mobile paying your early termination, it was necessary we trade in devices. There was no restriction on the type of device traded in, and so my son found old phones that could have been in the Smithsonian.
  4. Port phone numbers - T-Mobile initiated the port of our phone numbers, which resulted in the termination of these lines with Verizon. The port was complete same day.
  5. Receive termination fee - We received a final wireless bill from Verizon that included our early termination fees ($720 for us). You need to go to the T-Mobile ETF reimbursement site to submit a copy of your final bill to T-Mobile. Within 30 days of submission, T-Mobile will send you a Visa card with the amount reimbursed.

I should note, one key for us was that T-Mobile has a very open device portability policy, and so no new smartphone purchases were required as part of this switch. This meant that we really could go from $240 per month to $100 by doing nothing more than signing up for T-Mobile.

It’s been 10 years since I was last a T-Mobile customer. I’m happy to be back - but also happy to rationalize the price to value of my wireless service.