I knew this was the story AT&T has been spinning after its CEO suggested as much on its fourth-quarter earnings call. But since I jumped ship from AT&T when Verizon Wireless launched the iPhone 4S, I didn't realize how many little price hikes AT&T has instituted. (See AT&T Blames FCC for Price Hikes.)
Karl Bode at DSL Reports outlined them all on his blog Monday, with the latest being that AT&T has doubled its handset upgrade fee to US$36. Here are the others that have taken place in recent months:
- AT&T eliminated its $10 SMS plan and now only offers a $20 unlimited SMS plan or the more-expensive pay-per-text option. (See AT&T Axes Lower-Cost SMS Plan.)
- Wireless data rates were increased last month, charging more for data in total, but less per megabyte. (See New Twists in Mobile Data Pricing and Wi-Fi Usage Drives AT&T to Raise Prices.)
- AT&T is not-so-subtly encouraging its top 5 percent of data users to move to tiered plans by throttling download speeds on their "unlimited" plans.
Every time AT&T institutes a price increase, it spins it to be inevitable or in its customers' best interests. With its latest handset upgrade price hike, for example, the carrier notes it's the first time in 10 years it has done so. To be fair, AT&T's competitors have made similar moves. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), for one, charges $36 for handset upgrades.
But AT&T has been the most vocal about wireless competition thriving in the U.S. and is also under the most scrutiny after the T-Mobile deal fell through. While some of the changes are not that big of a deal in isolation, they start to add up. This could set a concerning precedent of never-ending price hikes for AT&T customers at a time when the carrier is looking to give them a reason to sign up for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile