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T-Mobile’s free tablet data plan has a few strings attached after all

T-Mobile Free Data Plan Strings Attached

T-Mobile made a splash last week by announcing a completely free data plan available to anyone purchasing a new tablet with the carrier. The announcement aligned perfectly with the release of the iPad Air, but customers found a surprising $10 monthly fee attached to their orders on Friday, which was tied to an On-Demand plan that T-Mobile requires all new customers to sign up for just to keep the SIM card active. T-Mobile clarified to CNET that this was nothing more than “an executional mistake,” and all customers who paid the fee will be refunded. But the saga doesn’t end there.

There is still some confusion as to whether the On-Demand plan is going to be a permanent fixture in T-Mobile’s data plans, but another issue has arisen that brings the integrity of the entire program into question. In the original press release, T-Mobile stated that “the company will offer the revolutionary tablets [iPad Air and iPad mini] starting at $0 down for qualified customers. And every T-Mobile iPad user will receive 200 MB of free 4G LTE data every month for as long as they own their iPad, even if they aren’t yet a T-Mobile customer.”

Legere even sent out a tweet from his personal account emphasizing just how few strings would be attached to this plan:

As it turns out, this doesn’t appear to be the case at all.

CNET once again reports that “new customers who want to take advantage of T-Mobile’s no-money-down plan are required to sign up for a $20-a-month plan.” In order to receive any data at all with the no-money-down plan, new subscribers are required to pay $20 every month for 500MB of data. The free 200MB T-Mobile promised to “everyone” will then be tacked on once customers have signed up and started paying. Current customers who already pay for a T-Mobile plan get the monthly allotment of 200MB for free without having to sign up for another data plan.

T-Mobile ignored two separate requests for comment.

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.