T-Mobile is to go head-to-head with Vodafone in the battle to sign up families on long-term contracts after launching a new tariff that allows members of a family group to call each other for free.
T-Mobile's new FamilyShare tariff allows families with up to five members to share a monthly allowance and to be charged on one bill. The company argued it is the only operator to offer bundled minutes and texts on a family plan, and unlimited free calls between family members.
By offering specific tariffs to family groups on 18-month contracts, T-Mobile is hoping to grow its market share by moving the younger members of families on to contracts and away from pre-pay services. Mobile phone companies are looking to move more customers on to 18-month or 24-month contracts to lower the cost of upgrading the customer's handset every year and reduce the amount of customers who regularly switch networks to hunt for the cheapest deal.
T-Mobile was involved in a previous attempt to crack the family market for mobile services when it provided network capacity for BT's high-profile relaunch of its mobile service in 2003. BT identified family groups as a potentially lucrative target market and offered up to six handsets on one plan, plus free calls between fixed-line phones and family members' mobiles. But the package failed to capture market share and BT instead focused on its fixed-mobile converged product BT Fusion to drive mobile growth.
But Vodafone has had more success with its own family tariff that offers unlimited calls between up to four people for £5 a month.
T-Mobile has launched a range of FamilyShare tariffs ranging from £55 a month for a basic package to £150 a month for a larger bundle of inclusive minutes and texts supposedly aimed at families that have a lot to say to each other over the phone. Each package is based on a family of two, with additional members charged at £15 a month.
T-Mobile hopes its new package will have a similar effect to its "Flext" tariff and its mobile internet service Web 'n' Walk, both of which have helped increase the company's market share. Phil Barden, director of consumer business at the German-owned operator, said: "For the first time, families can now receive greater value from their price plan by sharing it out within a family group."