Tag Archives | Wireless Carriers

The New 99%

Are you part of the 99%? No, I’m not speaking of the political movement that is sweeping the nation, but the bottom 99% of mobile data users. Mobile consultant firm Arieso studied the data habits of a European wireless operator, and through its findings it projects the top one percent of mobile data users use half of the world’s available bandwidth. The top ten percent use 90 percent.

Just like our widening income disparity in the US, the gap in bandwidth usage also grows. In the same study two years ago, Arieso projected the top 1% was using 40 percent, while the top ten percent consumed 70 percent. So, it’s pretty obvious that these bandwidth-hungry users are increasingly putting a strain on mobile networks.

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Verizon Adds $2 Fee for Electronic Payments

Starting next month, Verizon Wireless is going to nickel-and-dime people who make one-time electronic payments–forty nickels or twenty dimes, to be exact:

Verizon Wireless today confirmed to Phone Scoop via email that it plans to institute a new $2 charge for customers who make single bill payments online or by telephone. The change goes into effect starting January 15. Verizon said that the fee will be waived in a number of circumstances, including: electronic checks sent through My Verizon Online, My Verizon Mobile, or via telephone; autopay enrollees who pay using credit/debit/ATM cards or electronic checks; payments made through customer home-banking services; credit/debit/ATM card or electronic check payments made at in-store kiosks; Verizon Wireless gift cards or Verizon Wireless device rebate cards to pay a bill in-store, online or by telephone; or a standard paper check or money order mailed directly to Verizon Wireless with a monthly invoice/bill. The telephone and online single payment fee will be disclosed up-front and throughout the transaction so that customers know it will be levied at the time of payment.

Many of the sites reporting on this are assuming that Verizon is charging extra for an option that actually costs it less money to provide. I’d love to know the exact math: How much does it cost the company in total when it sends you a paper bill which you then mail back to it? How much when you pay by credit card and it needs to pay a processing fee to Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Amex? Does the $2 merely cover Verizon’s costs, as it seems to say, or is it padding its bottom line?

Here’s a Verizon page that gives the bad news and details the various options for avoiding the fee.

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Republic Wireless Unlimited Service: Now Less Limiting

When Republic Wireless announced its $19-a-month  hybrid Wi-Fi/cellular phone service last month, I found it intriguing –but I also couldn’t figure out why the company kept calling it “unlimited” when it had a policy to (eventually) boot customers who used too much cellular. It was really “Unlimited Wi-Fi plus limited cellular,” which I guess doesn’t make for snappy slogans.
Now Republic is saying that it’s doing away with the cellular cap. For as long as the service is in beta, at least, it’ll be truly unlimited–or at least unlimited enough to please virtually everybody.

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Ting: A Wireless Carrier that Isn’t Your Enemy

While most wireless carriers take every opportunity to overcharge their customers, Ting wants to be different. 

The carrier, which according to CNet will launch in mid-2012, automatically sorts users into appropriate price tiers for wireless voice, data and text. So if you don’t use your phone a lot in a given month, you land in lower tiers and don’t get charged as much. In months of heavy use, Ting bumps you up to higher tiers instead of charging inflated overage fees.
Of course, there are catches: Ting subscribers must buy their own phones at full price, off-contract. While that means customers are free to leave Ting at any time, the up-front cost is more expensive. But because Ting’s service plans are generally cheaper than those of major wireless carriers, and because subscribers pay less for light use, the savings can add up in the long run. Also, Ting customers must activate their own phones, which can be a complicated process, especially when porting a number from another carrier.
The other downside to Ting’s service is that if you only exceed your usage limit by a tiny amount, you pay for a higher tier instead of a small overage fee. For this reason, the wireless industry has tried to argue that overage fees are great for consumers, but the savings you’d reap from falling into a cheaper tier for lower usage negates that argument.
As for service, Ting will run on Sprint’s network. It’s not clear whether Ting will offer 4G service at launch.
Ting is one of several carriers that are trying to undercut major wireless providers on the cost of smartphone service. Others include Republic Wireless, which costs $19 per month and relies on Wi-Fi to drive network usage down, and Sprint’s own Virgin Mobile brand, whose plans start at $35 per month. T-Mobile has also jumped in with $30 per month prepaid service in partnership with Walmart.
The problem with all of these services is that their best phones are inferior to the top shelf offerings from AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. (CNet’s Rafe Needleman said he doesn’t like Ting’s selection, and hopes it gets better before the service launches.) But even low-end smartphones are improving, so these cheap carriers are becoming viable alternatives.
[This post republished from Techland.]

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Bill Shock Be Gone: FCC, Wireless Carriers Strike a Deal

Rather than face regulation, wireless service providers have struck a deal with the Federal Communications Commission to warn customers about impending overage charges for voice, text and data use.

Customers will receive free text alerts in real-time when they’re about to exceed their limits, CNET reports. The move is supposed to cut down on the “bill shock” people may feel when hit with sky-high rates for extra usage. Wireless carriers will also warn customers who travel overseas about the additional fees they may incur.

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The Feds Don’t Like the AT&T-Mobile Merger

The Justice Department is suing to prevent AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile’s U.S. arm. The move doesn’t kill the deal, but it does increase the chances that it won’t go through or will be approved only with further concessions on AT&T’s part.

I’m not an expert on the economics of telecommunications competition. But I keep coming back to this: The two wireless companies that have been the most aggressive on pricing and the most creative with plans have been T-Mobile and Sprint. The (relatively) small players, not the giants. Is that a coincidence? What are the chances that eliminating one of them would lead to lower prices and more options?

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