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WSJ: Americans' Phone Bills Are Going Up 273

Posted by timothy
from the at-what-margin-do-you-pivot? dept.
There's been some positive news in the last year (and the last few) for American cellphone customers: certainly there's more visible competition for their business among the largest players in the market. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal reports that while more competition may translate into some more attractive service bundles, flexibility in phone options, or smoother customer service, it doesn't actually mean that the customers are on average reaping one of the benefits that competition might be expected to provide: lower price. Instead, the bills for customers on the major wireless providers have actually gone up, if not dramatically, in recent months — which means U.S. cell service remains much more expensive than it is in many other countries. The article could stand a sidebar on MVNOs and other low-cost options, though -- I switched to one of these from AT&T, and now pay just under $40 for one version of the new normal of unlimited talk and text, plus quite limited (1GB) data, but still using AT&T towers. Has your own cost to talk gone up or down?
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WSJ: Americans' Phone Bills Are Going Up

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  • Virgin Mobile (Score:4, Insightful)

    by allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:23PM (#46442937) Homepage Journal
    35 USD for "unlimited" data and 400 minutes of talk time. Texting is "free" using my google voice number. If I really needed to talk more than 400 minutes, I could use something like Skype for voice.
    • I get tmobile for $23 a month per phone ($114 a month for 5 lines.) Everything is unlimited too.

      • by cbhacking (979169)

        Yeah... T-Mobile actually said in their last earnings call that they now get less money per subscriber than before. So at least for TMo customers, prices are definitely going down...

    • ...I have a feeling I could sell the the number.

      I chuckle when people tell me they're paying $50 or more a month for a fricken' phone.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        I chuckle when people tell me they're paying $50 or more a month for a fricken' phone.

        I don't want to tell Americans what I get for $50 a month in my "2nd world" country...

      • by afidel (530433)

        Yeah except you can't keep that price and get a decent handset, that's why I just switched the wife over to Republic Wireless, same $25/month but she can use a non-sucky phone (Moto X) instead of her cruddy Optimus V on Virgin Mobile plus she now gets unlimited voice, twice as much data, and roaming to Verizon.

      • by JazzLad (935151)
        I pay $13.99/mo (no taxes/fees). $10/mo to ATT MVNO Airvoice for 250min/mo with rollover (which I never come close to using all of), Google Voice for all my SMS (unlimited) and the rare times I'm not on WIFI I have a $3.99/mo Freedompop 3g/4g Mifi (free if only 4g but Wimax coverage is spotty so I pay for 3g). The Mifi is only 1GB/mo, but like I said, it's rare I'm on in WIFI coverage anyway.

        It's not for everyone, but it's great for me.
    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      Boost Mobile - $35/mo, unlimited voice, data, text.

    • texting is free period
    • Just for the fun of it my data - from Estonia:
      - i pay ~$5 for "unlimited" data (Actually my speed will be capped to EDGE speeds after 5GB - but i never use that much)
      - i have chosen to pay by the minute (~$0.02/min). That rarely exceeds another $5 as most my calls are free (family+coworkers)

      So all in all about 10$ a month.

      Also - i practically never use SMS/MMS, but jabber/facetime/fb chat/hangouts instead.

  • Canada... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:25PM (#46442941)

    It's still a lot cheaper than Canada. Here we're dreaming of having something as good as American plans! As a single parent I just can't afford what they charge here...

    • Not to mention the lack of competition of cellphone and internet providers in small towns far from the major cities.

      • Re:Canada... (Score:5, Informative)

        by corychristison (951993) on Monday March 10, 2014 @02:35AM (#46443523)

        Tell me about it.

        I live in Saskatchewan. We have Sasktel, Bell, Telus, Rogers and the "spinoffs" (Fido, Koodo, 7-11's SpeakOut).

        My current plan is with Telus. $60/mo for unlimited nationwide talk (unlimited to anywhere in Canada, from anywhere in Canada), unlimited sms/mms, with 5GB of sharable Data. My wife also has the exact same plan, so we have a total of 10GB of usable data between the two of us. After 911 fee's and taxes, we are paying $133.24 total. As it stands this is about as good as it gets for my needs.

        I was with Sasktel for many years until last July/2014. We were locked into a 3 year contract, and paying $60/mo each for 300 local daytime minutes, unlimited local calling in the evenings ,unlimited SMS (but not MMS, those were $1.00 each), and "unlimited" data. One gotcha they didn't tell you, is they also charged an $7-$8 "system access fee" on top of your plan, plus 911 fee's and taxes. In total we were paying ~$155/month. This does not account for overage or long distance fee's we would end up paying most months.

  • Yeah, Ting, my bill just went down.

    • Ting is great.

      I bought an iphone 4s from sprint and activated it on Ting and my monthly bill is about $10.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:30PM (#46442961) Journal
    I was on contract with T-Mobile: a family plan and one phone (out of 4) 18 months through its 2-year contract (the other 3 were past their 2-year contract period). T-Mobile allowed me to switch immediately to their monthly plans, with a reduction of about $60/month.
  • by Nimey (114278) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:33PM (#46442973) Homepage Journal

    I switched from Sprint to Ting, a Sprint MVNO that does strict PAYGO. $6/mo per connected device and charges for talk, text, and data based solely on usage in a given month; if I talk less next month my bill goes down, if I use more data it goes up.

    My phone bill for two devices is around half per month what Sprint charged us.

    • by Wolfrider (856)

      --Serious question, can anyone recommend an good AT&T MVNO in south Texas? I have a *dumb* phone, and AT&T is killing me @ ~$64/month for unlimited voice + text only, with NO data plan. They're way overcharging me @$20/mo for unlimited text. I've considered Solavei but not sure my phone would make the transition - I don't need an iPhone or Android. TIA

  • False advertising. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:36PM (#46442983) Journal

    I don't understand how businesses are allowed to tack on fees to bills without disclosing these fees in their prices. Somehow they can't quote these fees when you are booking the service, but they can calculate them when billing for the services.

    Some years ago, I rented a car from a large airport and one of the fees tacked on was for the property taxes paid on the car. Why don't they just tack on another fee for the property tax on their buildings, or their staff costs, car depreciations? These are all costs that must be paid by the business whether or not I had rented the car -- just like the property taxes on the car.

    I am just waiting for prices for cellphone and car rental services to be $1 with the rest of the cost as "taxes and fees".

    • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmail . c om> on Monday March 10, 2014 @12:07AM (#46443111)

      I don't understand how businesses are allowed to tack on fees to bills without disclosing these fees in their prices. Somehow they can't quote these fees when you are booking the service, but they can calculate them when billing for the services.

      That's right, this should definitely be illegal. Airlines played those games for years and years ($50 ticket fee, but with taxes it works out to $100 or maybe even $300). A rather recent regulation had ended that crap [nytimes.com]

      • Trouble with this is the carriers won't be able to run national ads with their pricing. Instead the price will have to be concealed until you're about to sign up. Some states (Nevada) you pay around 7%, whereas others (I think NY?) it's 25%. I'm still trying to figure out why the government finds it necessary to make a cell phone so expensive to have, even if your income is shit.

        • by whoever57 (658626) on Monday March 10, 2014 @12:35AM (#46443233) Journal

          Trouble with this is the carriers won't be able to run national ads with their pricing. Instead the price will have to be concealed until you're about to sign up. Some states (Nevada) you pay around 7%, whereas others (I think NY?) it's 25%.

          If it were purely taxes that the company must collect and hand over based purely on what you pay, I could agree with that, but when it is nebulous "fees" that are really cost of doing business that the company incurs, it's not reasonable. Furthermore, some of the fees relate to Federal fees that are the same in all states.

          In the example I was quoting (renting a car at an airport), the company has enough information to quote the exact price with all fees at the time of booking.

          • Exactly. Here in NY, the tax rate is 8.25%. If a cell phone carrier was advertising $100 a month for their plans, I could easily add in taxes and come up with a $108.25 real cost. I'd have no problem if this was the only "below the line" fee that they added in. However, they add in a ton of other things that are basically costs of doing business. By the time I need to multiply in the 8.25% tax, we're talking $130 instead of $100. Somehow, Amazon and other major retailers are able to sell items nationw

            • by tompaulco (629533)

              Somehow, Amazon and other major retailers are able to sell items nationwide without saying "This doodad will cost $25 plus $1.25 server maintenance fee plus $3.27 web app programming fee plus $2 executive hot tub installation fee...." Why can't the phone companies?

              There are several reasons. One reason is that by putting in these line items for things such as 911 fee and FCC fee, they make it appear as though they are not the ones charging you the fee and they should not be blamed for it. A second reason is that by putting these out there as line items they can lie about their prices and appear to be cheaper than the competition.

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              All of their excuses are BS. For proof, I submit prepay as evidence. If you "charge" your T-Mobile account with a $30 card, it never costs more than $30/month for whatever service they are advertising, regardless of the market you are in.

        • Why is it more important that advertisers have the ability to advertise a single price all over the country than consumers being able to easily tell what something actually costs once they're in a store? This seems like a really weird (or at least one-sided) argument.
          • by BVis (267028)

            Because the American consumer market exists to service the moneyed interests, of course. Duh. Did you think that it was there to provide consumers with quality, competitive services at a reasonable cost? That's cute.

        • by 3247 (161794)

          Trouble with this is the carriers won't be able to run national ads with their pricing. Instead the price will have to be concealed until you're about to sign up. Some states (Nevada) you pay around 7%, whereas others (I think NY?) it's 25%. I'm still trying to figure out why the government finds it necessary to make a cell phone so expensive to have, even if your income is shit.

          They could still run nationwide ads with the net price but quote the correct amount before you sign up.

      • by ruir (2709173)
        Are you sure it ended? It has always been the business model of ryanair...
    • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Monday March 10, 2014 @01:27AM (#46443377) Journal

      I beat an auto repair shop on an extra fees scam some years ago. Got a quote for a muffler replacement, and used it. After the work, they tacked on this extra $15 fee for "shop materials". That shop materials fee seems to be a common scam in the DFW area. When I objected, they trotted out the tired old justification that everyone does it, it's standard practice, etc. Also tried to claim it was a government requirement. EPA, you know. I pointed out that they had not included this cost on the quote, and they should have. That backed them off, and they dropped that extra charge.

      It's relentless. Just because a business is big and well-known is no assurance they won't stoop to outright theft and try to pass it off as necessary or customary. Once had AT&T try to charge me a fee for dropping long distance service while keeping local. A fee for dropping a service? Ridiculous! When I complained to them, they tried to tell me that a particular law said they were allowed to charge this fee, so tough. I told them I didn't give a rats ass what some miserable obscure law said, as they'd doubtless pushed it through with bribes and lobbying, and warned them I would complain to the FCC if they didn't back down. They didn't, so I did. Evidently the complaint worked. AT&T responded by refunding the fee in the interests of "customer relations" while in no way admitting any fault.

      The problem of ripoffs and poor service always seems to crop up wherever competition is lacking, and telecomms companies in the US certainly do not have enough competition. Ma Bell was an evil monopolist until their forced breakup in 1984, which it turned out, didn't help much. Today, telecomms in the US are still uncompetitive, price gouging, regulatory capturing, sluggish, backwards scum.

      • by Wansu (846)

        The problem of ripoffs and poor service always seems to crop up wherever competition is lacking, and telecomms companies in the US certainly do not have enough competition. Ma Bell was an evil monopolist until their forced breakup in 1984, which it turned out, didn't help much. Today, telecomms in the US are still uncompetitive, price gouging, regulatory capturing, sluggish, backwards scum.

        I don't know how old you are but Ma Bell was nowhere near as evil as today's AT&T and Verizon. Ma Bell was a regul

        • I don't know how old you are but Ma Bell was nowhere near as evil as today's AT&T and Verizon.

          Bullshit they weren't. My father and grandfather worked for Ma Bell for over 50 years between the two of them (both as line installers and in engineering) and I'm old enough to remember them pre-breakup. I've seen them operated behind the scenes and my father can tell you in great detail what a bunch of evil pricks they could be.

          Ma Bell was a regulated monopoly with many constraints on what it could do.

          Regulated yes. Constrained? Not so much. AT&T had vast power back in the day. Certainly more than Verizon and AT&T do currently, who BTW are also still regulated quasi

        • by usuallylost (2468686) on Monday March 10, 2014 @10:09AM (#46445041)

          AT&T got absorbed by Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC) in 2005. Which is pretty much the worst of the baby bells split off from the original Bell System. They adopted the AT&T name, in part because theirs has a rather bad reputation, but the underlying company is SBC along with the bits of AT&T that they kept. So it is really SBC that is buying up everything not the company formerly known as AT&T.

          My recollection of the old Ma Bell isn't as rosy as yours. You used to have to rent the telephone from them. You were not allowed to work on the phone wiring in your own home. I can remember being charged a non-trivial amount to have a phone line in my parents home repaired. Because it wasn't allowed for me to do it and unless you bought their in home wiring insurance policy you had to pay Ma Bell to come do it. Before the break up I can remember it costing something like $2 a minute to call my grandmother in Illinois from Virginia. My dad used to stand there while we talked and time the call because he could only afford so much time per month. Before the break up my father wanted a new phone Ma Bell quoted him over $200. We didn't get it because it was so costly. A couple of years later after the break up that exact phone was sold under the AT&T brand name for $19.99.

          The break up may have allowed many questionable practices but it also brought costs for the average person way down. The worst practices seem to be more related to the industry consolidating than to the initial breakup.

      • by kimvette (919543)

        >. Ma Bell was an evil monopolist until their forced breakup in 1984, which it turned out, didn't help much.

        Really? How are you paying $2 to $6 when everyone else in America now pays a fraction of a cent? The breakup did in fact help. You do not need to lease/rent your telephones from Ma Bell, you can add as many phones as you want and you can pick your choice of voice carriers - including free VOIP providers if their offerings fit your needs. The "videophone" is now reality and most of us bave far more

    • The fees will have been described to you in detail before you signed up. Somewhere in that fifty-page point-8-font contract you didn't read.

    • Generally the answer is that the fees in question are something being collected for a third party. Usually the Government. Taking a quick look at my mobile bill, this is in the US, for this month I see five fees. Communications Sales Tax, State & Local Sales Tax, Federal Universal Service Fund, Regulatory Surcharge and State 911 Fee. All of which are taxes. So in my view it is just like how you buy a bunch of stuff at the store and have to keep track of the sales tax that they are going to tack on at t

      • It would make life much easier if they forced the mobile providers to quote the prices inclusive of the taxes.

        After rattling off the prices for every county in the United States that assesses a sales tax, the ad would have to become tens or hundreds of times longer than it is today.

  • And (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Cat (19816) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:36PM (#46442991)

    Landline sound quality in 1975 was better than any mobile phone sound quality in 2014.

    "Hi, I'd like to get directions on how to mmmRAWWWWW BOAWWWAAHH URRRBBEE URBEEE BUMPH RAWWWWLLLL at the corner of Park Street. Hello? I said, I want to get dir--fwwwwzzzzEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE URPP *crackle* ffffffFAZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ EEEP Park street."

    The telecom companies raise prices, pocket the money and let their service rot, and the customers just keep shoveling cash at them.

    • Re:And (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dorianny (1847922) on Monday March 10, 2014 @12:34AM (#46443221) Journal

      Landline sound quality in 1975 was better than any mobile phone sound quality in 2014.

      This suprises you somehow? A landline provides a lot more bandwidth without any worries of signal interferance from walls or other radio sources. The switches were also analog, no need for converting analog sound into digital bits, compressing and then sending them in discreete packets.

      • Re:And (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Monday March 10, 2014 @11:23AM (#46445709)

        This suprises you somehow? A landline provides a lot more bandwidth without any worries of signal interferance from walls or other radio sources. The switches were also analog, no need for converting analog sound into digital bits, compressing and then sending them in discreete packets.

        Analog phone service sounds better than digital landline - because it was all analog and very little filtering happened. Then in the mid-70's or so AT&T was switching to digital systems. They did research (heavily) into finding out what bandwidth they could limit to and still have intelligible speech, which was decided that the good chunk of human vocalizations exist below 4kHz or so.

        This gave rise to the 8KHz sampling with 8 bits (or a 64kbps channel), uncompressed. Which is why our phone systems use 64kbps channel allocations. (56k modems were derived from the fact that every 8th byte or so, a bit was robbed from the audio and used for control purposes. Since you could never tell when this happened, they assumed you only had a 7-bit channel).

        Of course, that voice is carried at a full 64kbps. GSM and other digital mobile telephony only really have datarates of 4kbps or lower, necessitating use of highly compressed, highly distorting codecs meant to get the most out of every bit - and let the brain do a lot of the error correction and such (speech has low enough entropy that the powerful organic audio processor running rather advanced wet software can do very good forward error correction to extract out what is being said, despite all the distortion).

        Of course, with 3G and LTE and such, codecs are available that let you use more bandwidth to get higher audio quality, but like all things, it requires both ends to support it.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The telecom companies raise prices, pocket the money and let their service rot, and the customers just keep shoveling cash at them.

      New codecs were developed for 3G service and *supposedly mobile calling has gotten better.

      The GSM codec is AMR-WB [wikipedia.org] and the CDMA codec is called EVRC-NW [wikipedia.org].
      Some networks aren't going to switch over until LTE (aka real 4G) is fully deployed and it requires both ends of the call to support the codec.

      YMMV

      *depending on whether or not it's been enabled in your area/on your provider.

    • by Flammon (4726)
      You can thank the government corporate and IP laws for eliminating competition and causing this mess.
    • by sjbe (173966) on Monday March 10, 2014 @08:31AM (#46444327)

      Landline sound quality in 1975 was better than any mobile phone sound quality in 2014.

      Do you really want to go back to 1975? There was no such thing as mobile service. There also was for all practical purposes no data service. There was no voice mail and no answering machines. Text messaging didn't exist and email wasn't available outside of academia and some research labs. You had precisely one company to deal with in the US (AT&T) and they're weren't exactly friendly what with them being a monopoly and all. You would get charged an obscene amount of money to call anyone more than a few miles from your house and you didn't even want to think about the cost of calling someone outside your country. Rotary dial [wikipedia.org] phones were still commonplace. And I'm old enough to remember all this.

      Yeah they had voice service that was optimized for voice and nothing else. Cell phones might have their problems but I'm not exactly eager to turn the clock back.

  • With the discount for on-time payments, I pay $35 for unlimited talk, text, and web on the Sprint network. That's no contract, so certainly good prices are available.

    Of course, many people pay $85 for the phone subsidy that comes with a three year contract. An extra $50 / month will certainly increase the bill. $50 for 36 months is $1,800 for a "free" phone that's worth $250. No thanks. I don't recall how often you can get a new phone subsidized, but if it's a $200 credit once a year and people are payin

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:48PM (#46443047)

    My bill with Verizon dropped 40% after I threatened to switch carriers. Cell phone plans are a beautiful example of how prices are set based on the market's willingness to pay, not on the actual cost of the good or service.

    Expect prices to continue to rise as companies employ more and more psychologists and statisticians to extract the absolute maximum amount of wealth from their consumers.

    • by AudioEfex (637163) on Monday March 10, 2014 @12:21AM (#46443167)

      I've been ready to split to a MVNO for my two phones, both out of contract and no need to upgrade anytime soon. Even went through unlocking process with ATT. I was getting ready to do it last month but life happened, but I was able to get the website to take my $120 service (unlimited minutes, texts, 1GB data) down to $90. It was the same plan - and irritated me that it didn't just automatically move me. Then I log in today, and they actually have applied another discount without my intervention - now my monthly service is $65. They also seem to be applying my company discount differently - before it used to only be on the phone plan portion of the bill, now it seems to be applying over my entire bill which is bringing it down that low. It's saving me about 7-8 extra bucks calculated this way.

      So over two billing cycles my phone bill has dropped by nearly half. And all I did was click a different plan the first month, and this month I didn't do anything at all. Coincidentally, $65 was the price I was finding for the other services I had explored as alternatives. So, I've never had a problem with service (except on a visit to LA once, it was awful - maybe the smog? Lol) and I've gotten the price I was going to get without the hassle of changing anything. I'm going to keep a very close eye on my bill to make sure it doesn't creep up again, but I'm a happy camper all of a sudden.

      • by Wolfrider (856)

        --Coincidence? This is East 'Murika, comrade - they probably scraped your cookies and found out you were checking out the competition.

    • companies employ more and more psychologists and statisticians to extract the absolute maximum amount of wealth

      There's definitely a price/profit curve, the apex of which is the price that maximizes the seller's profit.

      If you were the owner of a struggling small business, wouldn't you try to find the sweet spot that maximizes your profit?

      If your honest answer is "no," then what price would you target --
      the price that gets you 50% of your potential profit?
      the price that gets you 10% of your potential profit?

      -- and why would you choose to "leave money on the table" like that,

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Of course any rational person would try to maximize profit. That's fair. You know what else is fair? Taxes and regulations.

        Corporations have the right to maximize their profit in a given set of conditions. Society has the right to change those conditions.

        • You know what else is fair? Taxes and regulations.

          Taxes and regulations certainly CAN be fair.

          There is, however, no real requirement on the part of lawmakers to make taxes and regulations fair.

        • You know what else is fair? Taxes and regulations.

          Not always. For example, airline deregulation was a good thing. "In 1974 the cheapest round-trip New York-Los Angeles flight (in inflation-adjusted dollars) that regulators would allow: $1,442. Today one can fly that same route for $268." -- Stephen Breyer, who worked with Ted Kennedy on airline deregulation in the 1970s

          With tax rates, like with prices charged to consumers, there's a sweet spot that maximizes long-term government revenue. A government that goes above that rate is being worse than unfair;

  • Cheapest Plan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bradray (524725) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @11:55PM (#46443079)
    I haven't taken a look at plans in the past year, but a year ago I looked at all of the plans available to find the cheapest possible service for someone that doesn't have many needs. I ended up with TMobile pay as you go plan. They had a unique feature that if you put $100 on your account, the money would stay in your account for 1 year. $100 a year for a cell phone service is hard to beat. This obviously won't work for someone that uses their phone quite a bit, but it is perfect for someone that can mostly use land lines and wireless internet. It's also perfect for a child whom you want to give a phone, but make them responsible for their own account balance.
    • I don't go out that much, thankfully. I have a Nexus 4 on a T-Mo SIM, replacing an Xperia Play (hey, it was a hundred bucks all in, including replacing the back plate.) Which is now my SIP phone, and I pay around ten bucks a month for that.

      The plan I'm using costs $2/day for unlimited everything, only on the days when you use it. It only has EDGE but the $3/day plan has fancier mobile data. Much of my driving around is in the sticks where the 3G coverage is crap anyway, and this is adequate for navigation w

  • by RR (64484) on Monday March 10, 2014 @12:36AM (#46443239)

    There are options from most of the carriers. I'm doing the Republic Wireless $10 unlimited talk and text, [republicwireless.com] but with no data. Having a 4G phone with no data sucks, but the price is compelling, and I should be able to add a prorated data plan for the times when I expect I do need it. Having WiFi calls when I'm at a place with no cell reception is also nice. However, counting the phone, my bill is higher than if I had been able to keep my dumbphone on somebody's T-mobile family plan.

    Ting [ting.com] is a great choice for Sprint, Airvoice [airvoicewireless.com] is a great choice for AT&T, PagePlus [pagepluscellular.com] is decent for Verizon.

    One interesting option is FreedomPop, [freedompop.com] but they seem to be in beta. Earlier versions of FreedomPop phones had poor performance and very poor voice quality, but they're supposedly improving. It would be interesting to see if they go anywhere with that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      For several years now I've been paying $80 per year for 2,000 minutes with Page Plus. I usually have a few hundred minutes left over at the end of the year, and leftover minutes are retained with continuous service. I've been pretty happy.

      My friends tell me that once I get a girlfriend, my low phone bills will be history. However, I've been enjoying my cheap phone service and laughing at my friends with girlfriends for years now.

    • A 4G phone without data is not a 4G phone, it's not even a smartphone
      • by tepples (727027)
        So if the term "smartphone" requires a valid cellular data subscription, is there an accepted term for a dumbphone and PDA in one device?
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        Wifi? I pay for data, but the fact is that I don't really need to. Most of the time, I'm either sitting at work (with Wifi) or sitting at home (with Wifi). Even the train stations are plastered with "Xfinity" and friends.

  • I'm looking at these. They seem much less expensive with a payoff period of 3-4 months.

    All my friends were on this last ski trip and had no problem at Denver Airport or Winter Park.

    I'm currently on Sprint and had good service as well but there are three LARGE areas in houston that I travel through and there is essentially no service in those areas.

    I get good service at my home and in galveston tho.

    I recently cancelled AT&T basic line which was up to $40 (From $18 not that long ago)...
    and went with Magi

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Good for a second line- but not something I'd like to count on. Also- my credit card company could process the touchkeys on the menu- but not when I entered the credit card number! Wierd, eh?

      Possibly the MJ uses SIP INFO DTMF (or the equivalent) and the DTMF isn't being generated on the other end properly, or alternately, it doesn't and your DTMF sounded like poop and the menu system could handle it but some cc system you were handed off to couldn't.

  • Here in Australia I pay $19.99 per month and get $300 worth of cap value to use on everything except international calls, premium rate calls/SMS and international roaming. (3 services I never use)

    I also get 1000 minutes per month free calls to other people on the same MVNO plus 1GB of included data.

    I pay 40c per 30sec and 35c flagfall for normal voice calls, 25.3c for SMS, 50c for international SMS, 50c for national MMS, 75c for international MMS, 0.2c for 10kb data (above the 1GB included in my plan). $1.0

    • by mjwx (966435) on Monday March 10, 2014 @02:01AM (#46443421)

      Here in Australia I pay $19.99 per month and get $300 worth of cap value to use on everything except international calls, premium rate calls/SMS and international roaming. (3 services I never use)

      G'Day, Australian here.

      Allow me to explain how this works for our American friends.

      For the GP's $20 real Australian dollars he doesn't get $300 real Australian dollars worth of value, what he gets are $300 imaginary dollars. Australian telco's do this to obfuscate the real cost of services. So they can continue to pretend that a single SMS costs $0.25 and one minute of talk time costs $1.50 or data actually costs $0.20 per MB. In reality that cost is less than 1/15th of the advertised cost. The money has no real value in the outside world and is only valid for 30 days (or however long is stipulated by the contract). This way telco's can continue to confound the ACCC and regular consumers and bold faced lie about the true cost of services.

      I'm with Telstra who are shamelessly Australia's most expensive telco... but I don't mind. I'm on a pre-paid plan (PAYG) and for $30 real Australian dollars I get $250 imaginary dollars as well as 400 MB of data for 30 days. Phone calls are $0.90 per minute and SMS's are $0.29, but in reality I'm paying $0.06 per minute for voice calls and $0.019 per SMS taking into account that at $2 per MB the data is 45% of my cap. However if Telco's advertised the real cost of services, they wouldn't be able to get away with charging $0.30 per SMS in real Australian dollars when post-paid (contract) customers go over their cap (feel free to Google "Bill Shock" for sensationalist tabloid pieces about this).

      This is a far cry from some places where if you have so much as 1 Peso on your account you can send infinite SMS's. However in that land I also swapped towers 3 times walking from one end of my hotel room to the other so I guess there's a trade off. I'm not all that unhappy with Australian prices, it's more the deceptive advertising that I have an issue with.

    • I pay just shy of $1200 for 2 years here in the US and get unlimited data. Actual, real, unlimited data on LTE (~7-10Mbps). Plus more minutes than I can use (which is fairly few, admittedly, when you consider most of my minutes are free since their to same-carrier phones).

      Oh, and I get a new $800 phone every 2 years included in that price. So, on balance, about $16.67/mo if you count the phone. I'd go for the "bundled" internet to get a discount, but my carrier's internet isn't all that fast. If I quit at a

  • by Chas (5144)

    Was at a client's site last week. She got a bill for $380 for two "business phone lines"!
    Two frickin' lines!

    She called AT&T and they "generously" offered to bring it down to $150/month if she bundled in DSL.
    For two freaking POTS lines!

    She's already on Comcast and already has a phone line through them. I told her to contact Comcast and have them tack on two phone lines. Total price increase. $-310 a month.

  • Baiscally the phone companies seem to want one's cellular bill to hover around the "magical" $100/month.

    You can get 2, 3 , even 4 lines for $100/month.

    But try to get a $25-35 plan for a single line?
    Pfft. Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen.

    And Sprint is trying to upsell my company. We're grandfathered into a plan with no data caps. They keep trying to sell us a plan that's just SLIGHTLY above our current data usage (and we know our data usage is only increasing). The grand total savings? $7/mon

  • Back last year I used AT&T upping their rates to get out of my contract, 6 months into a 2 year contract. Had them unlock my phone and took it to T-Mobile. They have a web-only plan for $30/month that gives unlimited text/data and 100 minutes. $20 for their startup fee that included the sim card and activation, and another $20 to port the number to google voice and using that over data instead of minutes, I'm on unlimited everything for $30/month.

    Cheap phone service is easy if you're willing to put a

    • Using the same here, but sadly they've recently blocked tethering -- even if you're just tethering an Android tablet to your Android phone. (So effectively, simply increasing your screen size.) That rather kills the deal, for me -- unlimited data is pointless when you can only use that data on the phone itself.
  • Here mobile calls have already a lot of competition and some obscure operators more oriented to foreign people (go figure) give you extremely good rates like 7 euros/month call anyone you want, or just pay a load every 3 months. I estimate I am spending 5 euros/months for the mobile bill. The bill you can find with the official operators is around 15 euros/month, and if cheaper they rip you off in the cost of the calls. Mobile Internet is an huge rip off, and the magic number is (again) 15 euros for the ba
  • I recommend Republic Wireless. $25/month gets you unlimited 3G (5 Gigs, then throttled to 2G) data, voice and texting on the Sprint Network. You have to purchase the phone outright (Moto X) and they hope but don't absolutely require that you offload to WiFi. The WiFi turns out to be a great feature because you can make calls and send texts seamlessly--great if you work in a basement or live in a bad cell area like I do. I wrote a blog posting about my experience here: http://www.eroncohen.com/2013/... [eroncohen.com]
  • I pay $30/month for 25 hours of talk and text with T-Mobile, but there's hardly a data plan (I think it's, like, 30mb/month). Suits me well since I don't use a smartphone. As soon as you set foot into the data plans, that's when things start getting expensive I think.
  • I have been a long time customer of T-mobile, mainly because my brother and sister-in-law were in it and back then in-network and out-of-network mattered. But many of my friends switched to AT&T because their kids wanted iPhones.

    One of them told me yesterday, "I think I should send T-mobile a donation. AT&T has cut my price in half because of T-mobile". He was paying 300$ for five lines. AT&T reduced it to 160$ for unlimited talk and text and 10GB of high speed data, combined data quota, and hot spot ability, free international roaming at 128 kbps, free international texts.

    It is to be expected, there are no new killer must-have features on the new phones, and so the customers don't feel the need to run on the upgrade treadmill. So they days of giving a "free" phone at some 200% margin in installments to the customers are gone. US cell phone market is trending towards sanity now.

  • Instead, the bills for customers on the major wireless providers have actually gone up, if not dramatically, in recent months — which means U.S. cell service remains much more expensive than it is in many other countries.

    Bills may have gone up but that doesn't mean you are paying more for the same stuff. I'm paying less for voice but I'm paying more for data in total. I'm also paying less per byte in data than I used to but I'm using more of it. My first cell phone bill was around $40/month (15 years ago) and only included a "massive" 40 minutes/month of voice calls before expensive ($0.70/minute) overage minutes kicked in. My bill reached a peak of about $100/month/phone recently but now I'm paying about $70 per phone

  • What most of these posts don't advertise is their actual speed of connection. Today with smartphones, LTE should be standard. But most of these cheap plans are MVNO's reselling cheaper 3g plans as most major carriers don't resell their LTE plans only 3G/3G+/4G (latter being marketing). While fine for those driven primarily by cost, it's not ok for those that want speed. That and they use their own definition of "unlimited" or even the 2/3/5 GB plans they offer where they knock you down to Edge speeds af
  • That is because they have their fingers in their ears. I've been gradually getting everyone I know to switch to Ting like I did. Or at least, if they really do need an unlimited plan, telling them to stop using freaking overpriced Verizon or AT&T, because seriously why would you do that? Pay twice as much for worse service than one of the 50-bucks-or-so unlimited plans? I rarely use more than the smallest tier, though, so I definitely do *not* need an unlimited plan. As such, I generally pay Ting about

  • Because I buy no contract phones that are GSM I am part of the only real competitive network in North America. ATT vs T-Mobile. ATT's 3 billion contribution to my plan now means I pay $50 (1st line) + $30(2nd line) + $10(3rd) all with data, text and talk. Previously 2 lines cost me $175 under contract. Thank you ATT.
  • by PPH (736903)

    ... and an occasional SMS. That's all I need.

    I'd consider an MVNO, but they can't beat my plan ($25 every 3 months). So I could get a smart phone and use data over WiFi when available. But I'm not sure if AT&T will pull their mandatory data plan B.S. even for wholesale customers. I just don't need data that much and I'm not likely to be shot for my flip-phone.

Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.

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