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(T-Mobile Photo)

T-Mobile today unveiled its first take on cable TV: A set-top box that gets to know users’ viewing habits with personalized DVRs for every member of the household.

Dubbed TVision Home, the service is not exactly the big cable disruptor that the self-proclaimed “Un-carrier” has hinted at for more than a year. Like other TV offerings, it launches with a set-top box that plugs into a wired internet connection. T-Mobile pledged in the future to make the service available on the hardware and services people already use.

T-Mobile promises a straightforward pricing approach, in contrast with the unanticipated costs and fees cable companies are famous for. The base cost is $100 a month — with a $10 per month discount for existing T-Mobile customers that the company is extending to everyone for a limited time. T-Mobile charges $10 per month for each TV on the service.

That’s a higher monthly fee compared to similar streaming services, though competitors such as Dish, AT&T, and YouTube have announced price hikes since launching.

The service features more than 150 channels, including local stations and popular national networks. It does not include bundles for premium channels or streaming services, so users will have to pay extra for those.

T-Mobile in a press release emphasized that this is step one in a longer process of disrupting the cable industry and not the finished product.

“The Un-carrier has already changed wireless for good … and today’s news brings us one step closer to taking on Big Cable,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. “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.”

(T-Mobile Photo)

The service is essentially an upgraded version and expansion of Layer3 TV, the Denver-based company T-Mobile acquired for $325 million in late 2017 to jumpstart its TV push. It will be available in eight markets starting April 14: Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington D.C. metro areas, and Longmont Colo., where Layer3 is based.

T-Mobile is pledging a more pleasant customer service experience and greater personalization than what rival cable companies offer today. Over time, TVision learns users’ viewing habits and adjusts in a variety of ways, such as automatically tuning into shows users viewed daily or weekly. Subscribers can have multiple profiles for every member of the family, including separate DVRs.

T-Mobile promised new features that will bring its service closer to the company’s vision of disrupting the cable industry, much like the way it has tried to do with wireless. The company did not give timelines for most of these new offerings:

  • Soon, the cable box will become unnecessary, as TVision will eventually come to third-party platforms such as Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.
  • Later this year, T-Mobile will launch a nationwide mobile streaming service, with Viacom as a key launch partner.
  • Out of the box, TVision will have an apps for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and it expects to add apps for other popular streaming services later.

Leading the TV initiative is Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 and now an executive vice president at T-Mobile. He is joined by close to 200 others from Layer3, including former executives from AT&T, Fox, Comcast, Time Warner and more.

The pending merger with Sprint and the 5G network the combined companies plan to develop are key to the evolution of TVision. T-Mobile says its 5G network will make it possible to replace both TV and in-home wired broadband from cable companies.

T-Mobile says 74 percent of households have some form of cable or satellite service, but increasingly more people are cutting the cord, instead opting for a smorgasbord of streaming services. Comcast is adjusting to the new reality, recently unveiling a new streaming box for its internet-only customers.

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