By Chris Welch@chriswelch
T-Mobile today took a step toward its upcoming over-the-top TV streaming service that will compete with cable companies and “skinny bundle” apps like Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now. The company announced that it has rebranded Layer3 — the IPTV cable provider it acquired last year — as TVision Home, and it’s also introducing a new channel package that’s available for $90 per month to T-Mobile’s own mobile customers.
For a limited time, that price will be available to all TVision Home subscribers in the cities where the service will be available beginning on April 14th:
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- Longmont, Colorado
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
T-Mobile says TVision Home availability will continue to expand, but those are the only areas that will be able to get it right away.
As for what TVision Home offers, it’s not far off from what Layer3 already had. You get a fairly standard cable channel lineup that consists of “over 150 channels, local broadcast, regional sports and more.” There are also the usual premium add-ons for HBO and other networks. T-Mobile says the TVision user experience is AI driven and will recommend shows based on the time of day or your usual viewing habits. Each user in the home gets an individual profile with their own personalized recommendations and DVR. (Everyone splits 1TB of storage.)
At launch, TVision will have built-in apps for Pandora, iHeartRadio, and a few other niche services. Netflix and YouTube will arrive at a later date. T-Mobile says it will release a TVision app that will let customers watch their live programming anywhere in the house, but it sounds like you’ll have limited access on the go — at least until TVision Home expands to third-party devices and streaming boxes “later this year.” The cable box supports both Google Assistant and Alexa, and you can link your social media accounts to it, if viewing Facebook photos or your Twitter timeline on the TV is something you want to do.
But is $90 per month a good deal? T-Mobile claims that the typical cable or satellite customer is paying an average of $107.30 per month. When the temporarily $90-for-everyone deal eventually goes away, TVision will cost $100, so you’ll be saving under $10. Also, T-Mobile isn’t including taxes and fees in that advertised rate, so TVision doesn’t match the simplicity of the company’s wireless plans. (The fine print notes that taxes could be anywhere between 4 percent and 20 percent of a bill’s total.)
In addition, T-Mobile will charge customers an extra $10 monthly for every connected TV that TVision is running on. If you’ve got two TVs, you’re already over that $107.30 average. T-Mobile claims that pricing won’t change as long as customers stay on their plan, and no two-year commitment is needed. That’s all well and good, but the bottom line is that nothing about TVision Home’s pricing seems very disruptive or game-changing versus what your local cable company will give you.
The timing of TVision Home’s announcement comes as T-Mobile and Sprint continue to push toward their merger that would reshape the US mobile industry. As you’d expect, T-Mobile is positioning the TV service and rejuvenated competition in that industry — squaring off against Comcast, Dish, etc. — as a good reason for approving the merger. T-Mobile is offering to pay off current satellite contracts for DirecTV and Dish customers with a prepaid card totaling up to $500.
“While TVision Home uses your existing wired broadband today, TVision Home is IPTV designed for a 5G future where wireless broadband can replace your home internet,” the company said in its press release. “And with the New T-Mobile, we can do more than just offer home TV service. We can offer millions of Americans more choice and competition for TV and home broadband. I can’t wait to begin un-cabling cable and giving millions the opportunity to cut the cord with Big Cable forever,” said CEO John Legere.
This is just the beginning, according to T-Mobile. In the future, the company says signing up for TVision will be as simple as “downloading an app and picking from a variety of low-cost home or mobile subscriptions — no extra box or equipment required.” And that take-TV-everywhere concept is what T-Mobile will really need to deliver on if it wants to compete against today’s wave of internet TV services. TVision Home very much resembles traditional cable, but the company has signed deals with Viacom and others in preparation for what’s to come.
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