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T-Mobile is continuing its 'un-carrier' shtick with a stock handout, Frostys and other freebies

"I'm going to thank you like you've never been thanked before," CEO John Legere tells customers.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere
Asa Mathat

After years of lashing out at rivals, you might think T-Mobile chief John Legere would be getting tired, or at least hoarse.


On Monday, Legere is taking fresh aim at the rest of the industry, announcing the 11th in its series of "un-carrier" moves. T-Mobile is set to announce its latest in a webcast at 10 am PT, and we'll update things as it does. (Update: There is more below but in a nutshell, T-Mobile is giving postpaid customers a free share of stock and offering both prepaid and postpaid customers weekly freebies each Tuesday, including free pizza, Vudu movie rentals and Wendy's Frostys.)

While there is more than a little gimmick involved in the un-carrier campaign, there have also been some significant game changers among the initiatives that T-Mobile has unleashed.

Here are three that stand out:

The first was T-Mobile's move in October 2013 to offer far cheaper global roaming for those traveling abroad. Calling became cheaper, texting free and data unlimited, albeit capped at slow 2G speeds. Still, that meant that those without a massive budget could afford to take their phone on overseas trips without being forced into airplane mode.

The next significant move, in June 2014, was to offer unlimited streaming music from services like Spotify, without having to tap into one's high-speed data limit.

Third, there was last year's Binge On promotion, which offers unlimited video streaming from a number of services. This one has a catch, though. Users have to agree to limit the quality of their video streams in exchange for not having services like Netflix and Hulu count toward their data cap.

T-Mobile has faced some criticism over Binge On, both for not making things clear enough and among some net neutrality advocates who fear that making certain services free creates winners and losers. T-Mobile has made tweaks to Binge On to make it easier to turn off the service.

The efforts have paid off for T-Mobile, which has garnered nearly all of the growth in the industry for core smartphone subscribers in the past couple of years, with AT&T and Verizon posting gains only by adding tablets and other connected devices.

And let's not forget the move that started it all: T-Mobile's March 2013 announcement that it was doing away with two-year contracts and subsidized phones.

If you want to watch the event live, it's here. Otherwise, we will bring you the highlights.

Update, 10 am: "We're not slowing down," Legere said, kicking things off from the company's location in New York City's Times Square.

Legere said this un-carrier stuff is all about thanking the company's customers who have helped it double in size.

He's going on a tirade against rewards points systems. (AT&T announced a new rewards system last week.)

"We just want to say 'Thank you,'" he said. "I'm going to thank you like you've never been thanked before."

10:06 am: Every Tuesday, customers can use an iOS and Android app to get things like a free Vudu movie rental, a free Wendy's Frosty and a free Domino's pizza as well as a surprise gift each week.

This week's "surprise" is a free ticket to the movie "Warcraft."

Other carriers want to screw you, Legere says with his typical brashness, while T-Mobile is offering dinner and a movie.

There are two more announcements coming.

10:10 am: T-Mobile is giving its customers stock in the company, with each primary postpaid account holder getting one share. "I'm turning customers into owners."

No publicly traded company has done this, Legere says.

Those who recommend T-Mobile can get more stock. For every friend who opens an account, customers get another share (up to 100 shares a year.)

And he takes aim at Sprint, saying this isn't like that other company's stock, which is trading at 50 cents. (For the record, Sprint shares are at $3.76; T-Mobile's stock is at $43.41)

10:15 am: T-Mobile operating chief Mike Sievert comes out to explain the third "thank you" and talk about specifics for the previous options. The Tuesday promotion applies to T-Mobile-brand customers who are prepaid or postpaid and requires a one-time validation.

"We're not asking you to spend more in any way," Sievert said.

The stock applies to postpaid accounts and goes to primary account holder, he said. Customers do have to sign up for a brokerage account, but he said there are no fees for selling or transferring the share in the first year.

"You do have to claim it to get it," he said, which also happens in the new app.

10:18 am: Promotion No. 3 is a free hour of Gogo Wi-Fi service on every domestic flight, an expansion of a current offer that gives customers free texting. T-Mobile is also adding unlimited messaging on services like WhatsApp, iMessage and Google Hangouts.

10:19 am: And that's it for the webcast. But Legere and Sievert are talking to the media in a bit.

10:51 am: Update from the media call.

First, a couple quick clarifications. All the "thank you" offers apply to T-Mobile-brand customers, not to those on T-Mobile's MetroPCS brand. The stock is only for postpaid customers.

Legere clarified that a key goal of the latest moves is to keep customer churn low.

Companies in the cellphone business spend a fortune trying to sign up new customers and lure away the best customers from rivals.

Asked what the focus is this year, Legere said the No. 1 focus is continuing to improve the network and bidding in the upcoming FCC spectrum auction.

The company is also thinking about next-generation 5G networks and Internet-of-Things devices, but he said most of the talk from rivals is rhetoric.

"Unlike the others, we never lose sight of the core of what we do," he said.

As for the pizza, movie and other promotions, Legere and Sievert said that in some cases T-Mobile is buying the rewards and in others the partners are providing them. In no cases, though, is the company sharing customer data, they said.

10:56 am: T-Mobile clarified that its brokerage partner, Loyal3, is buying shares on the open market and that T-Mobile is not itself issuing new shares (which would dilute current stock ownership).

10:58 am: Asked about potential merger and acquisition activities, Legere noted that historically the U.S. market has been segmented and divided by wired and wireless, telecom and cable, whereas customers don't see things that way.

"Customers want to use all of the infrastructures together in a seamless way," he said, adding he expects to see consolidation over time and sees T-Mobile as a potential partner or merger candidate with a cable company.

11:02 am: Legere lashed out at the rewards program AT&T introduced last week, saying it looked like something created by a hastily convened task force aiming to get ahead of T-Mobile's announcement.

"They proved my point that loyalty programs are broken," he said. "I just want to thank them."

11:04 am: CFO Braxton Carter said the company isn't raising its expectations for customer additions for the year, saying it anticipated this effort when it offered its projections for the year.

11:07 am: As for 5G, Legere said that things have already hit the point of ridiculousness, saying Verizon "got caught with their pants down" on network issues and is using 5G to deflect attention.

Network chief Neville Ray added that consumer 5G cell service remains a 2019 or 2020 issue for the industry. What AT&T and Verizon are really talking about is either fixed wireless service to compete against home broadband or other things that come before true 5G cell service.

"We're not behind anybody," Ray said. "We have our own trials and testing work. They have nothing unique."

11:08 am: Asked about Sprint hiring Verizon's former pitchman, Legere addressed his comment to Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.

"Marcelo, he's an actor and he hasn't acted for a long time," Legere said. "I was thinking we could get former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse to do an ad."

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