T-Mobile and Spanish media giant Univision Communications Inc. have teamed up to launch a new wireless brand specifically designed for Latino customers.
Starting Monday, Univision Mobile will offer customers monthly plans that include 100 minutes of international calling to eight countries in Latin America, including Mexico, and unlimited text messaging to phone numbers in more than 200 countries around the world.
With the help of Univision's well-known brand and marketing muscle, T-Mobile hopes to tap into the Latino market of nearly 56 million Americans.
The Latino market represents the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. and includes some of the most active smartphone users. Nielsen said Thursday that 77% of Latinos own a smartphone, nearly 10 percentage points higher than the national average. They also spend more time watching digital video and use more data, and are adopting smartphones at a much quicker rate, Nielsen said.
Mike Sievert, T-Mobile's chief marketing officer, said Latinos are among the most influential groups in the country and "deserve wireless tailored to their interests and needs."
"We built the wireless service they told us they wanted from the ground up, instead of slapping a Spanish translation on top and calling it a service for Hispanic Americans, like the old-guard carriers do," he said.
Wireless rivals have also been trying to tap into the sizable market.
Last year Verizon Wireless launched a similar but more conservative effort to tap into the Latino market by partnering with Jennifer Lopez to create Viva Movil, a series of wireless retail stores around the U.S. Viva Movil also targets customers through its website and on Facebook.
AT&T Inc. says it has 650 bilingual stores in 23 markets nationwide that are staffed with Spanish-speaking customer service representatives and feature in-store Spanish-language signage and demos. Sprint said it invests in Latino community organizations and sponsors events and scholarships for that demographic.
Despite such efforts, many Latino-focused initiatives have failed to gain traction, said Roger Entner, a telecommunications analyst and founder of research firm Recon Analytics.
"If you look at Viva Movil with Jennifer Lopez, I'm not sure it really had an impact on the market," he said. "Where this usually dies is in terms of marketing, in terms of distribution."
But T-Mobile's Univision Mobile is the biggest push thus far by any of the four major U.S. carriers into the Latino segment, and Sievert said the carrier is putting "massive distribution" behind it. Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed.
To roll out the new plans, T-Mobile and Univision teamed up with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other wireless dealers handpicked because they serve Latino communities. Wal-Mart will offer Univision Mobile in about 1,800 of its stores throughout the country. The service will also be available at 6,000 independent dealer locations.
Customers can also buy plans online at UnivisionMobile.com starting Monday.
T-Mobile said it will not offer Univision Mobile plans at its stores.
The deal represents the latest move by T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere, whose tenure since fall 2012 has been highlighted by bold, aggressive changes.
Under Legere, the wireless carrier ended traditional service contracts; added the iPhone; rolled out an early-upgrade plan for mobile devices; and offered to pay cancellation fees for AT&T, Verizon and Sprint customers if they switched to T-Mobile.
So far, Legere's strategies have attracted droves of new customers. This month the Bellevue, Wash., company announced it had signed up 2.4 million new customers during its most recent quarter, its first quarter ever with more than 2 million net additions. That brought its customer base to 49.1 million, up 44% from 34 million a year earlier.
"T-Mobile has made huge progress," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. "But it's done it at the expense of its financial metrics."
For the first quarter, T-Mobile reported a loss of $151 million, down from a profit of $107 million a year earlier.
The partnership also marks a new era for Univision, the leading media company serving Latinos in the U.S. The media conglomerate has 16 broadcast, cable and digital networks; 62 television stations; and 68 radio stations. All are scheduled to begin promoting Univision Mobile next week.
"This partnership further reinforces our commitment to serve our audience in every way possible and also clearly demonstrates how Univision is the gateway for any brand looking to connect with the influential and fast-growing U.S. Hispanic community," said Kevin Conroy, Univision Communications' president of digital and enterprise development.
Univision Mobile customers will have access to unique content from Univision, such as ringtones, apps and videos, and can choose from three plans.
The least expensive, available for $30 a month, has unlimited talk and text in the U.S. For $45 per month, customers get unlimited talk and text and 2.5 gigabytes of data at 3G speeds. Customers who pay $55 get unlimited talk and text and 2.5 GB of data at 4G speeds.
Customers who already own T-Mobile phones will be able to use their devices with the new plans. Univision Mobile will also sell devices that are compatible with its service, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III.
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