As more consumers in the United States are jumping on the smartphone and tablet bandwagon — personally, I contribute to this mess with one of the latest phones with Android software as well as a first-generation iPad — there’s less room in the limited airwaves for customers’ needs to access the internet and occasionally make telephone calls over mobile networks. Mobile carriers are doing what they can to preserve what remains of the spectrum, usually by increasing prices or limiting bandwidth.
The idea behind the peak oil movement is that in the future — and sometime soon — the world will not be able to efficiently produce as much oil as the citizens of the world need to consume, and due to the imbalance between supply and demand, prices for oil (and thus everything else that relies on oil) will skyrocket. Peak oil has been proven difficult to predict.
Unlike peak oil, wireless carriers know how much spectrum they have left before they can’t support any additional traffic over the air. The situation is similar to real estate. There’s only so much available land for construction, and as the available land in any area with adequate demand is sold, the pressure of the lack of supply drives prices up. Dish Network, for example, has a significant amount of unused spectrum, and it would like to sell what it isn’t using to a wireless provider that desperately needs the spectrum to satisfy its customers.
As companies need to devote more of their resources towards increasing spectrum — whether through consolidation attempts in the industry like AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile — or through buying spectrum from other owners at a high price — and as companies use pricing to limit customers’ use of the spectrum, the cost for a family or an individual to receive the same level of service is going to increase.
Save money on your cell phone bills
You can keep your cell phone bills in check:
- Use a service like Validas to make sure you’re paying for the best mobile plan for you.
- Compare prices across carriers. Don’t just consider the mainstream plans with the major carriers; pre-paid mobile phone plans could cost less.
- Consider skipping internet-enabled devices. If all you need to do is talk, you can save yourself the expense of the latest high-tech phones and stay on a less expensive voice plan.
- If you have other telecommunication services, like cable television and home phone, consider bundling these services to save money.
- Call and ask for a discount. Sometimes, you can get a price break just by asking. Don’t threaten to leave, though, unless you’re willing to live up to that promise.
I’m currently paying over $100 per month for my mobile phone service with Verizon Wireless, which includes my phone with 4G smartphone service as well as a 3G service for my iPad through a separate device. How much do you pay for your mobile phone service? Are you prepared for this cost to increase in the next year or two as companies fight over remaining broadband spectrum?
Published or updated February 21, 2012.