Overpriced mobile phone plans

When it comes to subscriptions, I’m not like most Americans. In general, I’d much rather pay a higher up-front fee in return for lower monthly fees. But most people seem to prefer the opposite in order to get a ‘free’ mobile phone, cable modem, TiVo, etc.

A few days ago, I was looking whether I should change my mobile phone subscription. I should be a perfect customer: I rarely contact customer service, I use much fewer minutes than my monthly plan, and I have not taken a ‘free’ phone in over four years. All I want is about 400 minutes per month, no domestic roaming fees, reasonable international roaming charges, and an unlimited data plan. When I looked at the competition, I found I would be paying close to $100 including taxes and fees. That’s about double what I pay for home phone, long distance, and 3 MBps DSL.

My home phone and DSL service are better in every single category. Wired sound quality is excellent. Wired phone and DSL are extremely reliable. Data speeds are 25x faster than wireless. The few times I have had to call 911 emergency from a home phone, an operator answered in seconds, but the one time I had to call from my mobile phone, it took nearly 15 minutes to reach an operator, let alone see the police.

Of course, my mobile phone is portable. But it is so unreliable, so poor quality, that it is just a toy. And it seems like we’re getting fleeced for the convenience of mobility.

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13 Comments on “Overpriced mobile phone plans”

  1. Ennis Says:

    Is it the data plan that is pushing costs up here? It’s not the voice …

  2. Greg Says:

    The voice plan is a mediocre value. The data plan is a very bad value.

  3. Ennis Says:

    I have a very cheap voice plan on T-mobile, but have no idea how much data would cost. I don’t have a land line, but then I don’t have a child to need to call 911 for …

  4. nicole Says:

    I have T-Mobile and lately it seems like the signal quality has been getting worse. I never use my allotted minutes and I share them with my husband. We don’t text message either, yet we pay $60 a month. Seems kinda high to me. We really aren’t phone talkers, so we don’t have a landline. Why bother when it will get nothing but telemarketers? Personally I think they’ve ruined the landline business moreso than the cellular providers, but what do I know?

  5. bcj. Says:

    I dropped my landline about 5 years ago when I realized I was paying $25/month for telemarketers to call me. Data plan costs have been keeping me from going that route, so I’ve been voice-only mobile (and very limited text messaging). I just can’t seem to justify going into the triple digits for the “convenience” of always on-line.

    But isn’t this technology, and won’t prices fall just as with any technology? What’s keeping it so pricey?

    bcj.

  6. Greg Says:

    BCJ: If there were real competition, the mobile phone providers wouldn’t need to lock you to a service contract.

  7. Ennis Says:

    I have T-mobile and I get free nights and weekends + 1,000 daytime minutes a month for $40. It’s around half of what I would pay on Verizon. [The plan is still available, btw]

    I did have network issues for a while, but it turns out that they were actually phone issues, when I switched phones I no longer dropped calls. I have a few dropped calls now, but they’re always my blootooth crapping out on me (I can see the error message), never the basic line.

    And since I don’t have a basic phone line, I’m paying

  8. Ennis Says:

    T-mobile charges only $30/month more for unlimited internet:
    http://wiki.howardforums.com/index.php/T-Mobile_Data#Data_Plans

  9. Greg Says:

    Ennis: You prove my point. The cost of a voice + data plan is $70/month. This is worse than a wired connection in terms of data speed, voice quality and reliability. Its only advantage over a wired connection is mobility.

  10. Ennis Says:

    I guess I would be paying around $70/month for a voice+data hard connection too.
    Certainly, the mobile connection is much poorer quality for the same service, but I dunno if that’s fleecing. It’s far harder to provide mobile services, and the equipment is newer, unlike the land lines which were long ago amortized. Furthermore, having a mobile voice connection is clutch for me since I’m not bound to one location, so the portability is quite important. [I don’t have a portable data connection though, for the reasons you list]

    Are you tempted to go fixed line altogether? Why the outrage? If I want to fly to a small town it will cost me more and be a less enjoyable experience, but I usually don’t say I’m being fleeced by the airlines.

  11. Greg Says:

    Ennis: The whole issue is that the service is expensive and extremely poor quality. Let me tell you a story: yesterday afternoon, I needed to call my manager on his mobile phone while he was driving home. He lives in the state with the highest population density, which was, for many years, the home of the Bell System, THE telephone company. He has the latest model mobile phone and is a subscriber with the provider that boasts the fewest dropped calls. In other words, this should have been an ideal situation for the mobile phone. Yet, during our conversation, we had two dropped calls, plus a pair of 1-minute moments when neither could hear the other side.

    If a business phone dropped calls every 10 minutes, businesses would scream in outrage. If a website was unavailable every 15 minutes, a company like Amazon would never exist. If your broadband internet service had four outages per hour, you would be screaming for your money back.

    So why do we tolerate this from our mobile phone companies? And why do we pay so much for this?

  12. Ennis Says:

    Although these calls were dropped while he was driving rather that stationary, right? That is, it’s a far harder service for which they charge more and which they still don’t have right.

  13. Mr. Mentor Says:

    Greg..

    Regarding:
    “So why do we tolerate this from our mobile phone companies?”

    The answer may be as close as your neighborhood Home Owner’s Association (HOA)! What does the local HOA have to do with the cellular industry, you ask? More and more cell companies are having to approach HOA’s in order to get permission to install a cell tower in a “marginal reception area.” Needless to say, what do you think those HOA’s are saying about the possibility of having a cell tower in their neighborhood? NO WAY! Therefore, and especially in this economy we’re in now days, that areas RF coverage is put on “hold” until the cell company can work out a ‘deal’ with either a nearby company owner or residential subdivision. What’s the primary reason for the refusal? The soccer moms claim it’s “unsightly.” By the way, those same people bitch, as you might have expected, when their cell phones don’t work when little Johnny gets hurt in the nearby neighborhood park with mom running to rescue him with her trusty cell phone in hand.. This is the classic NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard syndrome.

    Instead of actually negotiating with the cell company and PROFITING from their local residential installation, that could, incidentally, substantially profit their HOA funding, they instead are more concerned with the “unsightly” factor. Amazing! As soon as little Johnny grows up, what do you think he’ll be wanting to keep in touch with his family and friends?


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