Gray Flannel Dwarf

11/29/2007

Mobile phone service is nothing but a shell game.

I’ve been looking, on and off, at changing our mobile phone service. I don’t really have that much of a problem with our current one, except for the fact that we no longer live in the area for which our phones have area codes. AT&T won’t let us change those unless we get off our current plan and choose a new one.

And therein lays the rub.

We’ve had our current plan for something like… four years. With a corporate discount, we pay around 90 bucks a month (including taxes) for two phones, 1200 minutes a month, pay-as-you-go web and messaging. We also have a long-since-extinct “North America Package” which gives us free LD to, and coverage in, Canada.

One would think that, several years later, the greater proliferation and uptake of mobile services would lower the prices for everyone, right? Not the case.

Playing with options six ways from sunday on the ATT website, or anywhere else, I can’t find anything that turns out to be any cheaper than what I am currently paying — nevermind the fact that we have the North America package — no longer offered by ATT Wireless, I mean, Cingular, I mean, ATT… and nevermind the fact that we have 7PM nights standard — again, no longer standard, but rather I’d have to pay nearly $20/mo more for this.

Part of me is stymied, but none of me is at all surprised, I guess, especially when one looks at how the industry has, once again, consolidated over the years.

Early on in my mobile phone adventures — probably about five to six years ago — I had a Nextel phone. I could take it to Canada, whereupon it would be usable like a local (Canadian) phone on the Telus network. A while back I went into a Sprint/Nextel store and inquired about it. Sure enough, one can’t do this anymore.

Fast forward a few years, to ATT. Four-ish years ago when I was looking to get a new plan, Cingular was about to consume ATT Wireless. Despite the assurances by the salesmen that the new Cingular would continue to offer something similar to the North America package, I didn’t believe it for a minute and thus signed up for a new contract w/ the NA package while it still existed.

Turned out the be a good decision in the end, I guess.

Now, obviously, the “Canadian” bits of this entry aren’t going to be of much interest to most people — but they’re not intended to be the main concern — they’re symptoms of the larger issue at hand. That I can have a plan from several years ago, with a la carte features, and in fact more expensive ones — I am still paying $20/mo for an extra line these days when the industry standard seems to be $10 — seems startlingly out of whack. Costs haven’t really shifted though — it’s a shell game. Mobile providers have transferred the costs from the a la carte tray straight to the core services.

I’m sure there are some out there who are wondering why I’m complaining. “You should be happy that you got, what you got, when you did — rather than whine about it now while the rest of us have to deal with what’s offered”. To those who may not see the forest for the trees, I can only suggest that you take a look at the hands you’ve been dealt, and wonder who’s stacking the cards.

…and why do I get the nagging (and perhaps overly-paranoid) feeling that this is going to filter up to ATT, whereupon having been a customer for over five years, I find my service contract terminated?


Tags: , , , , , , — cswiii @ 11:53 am

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