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Are You Ready For Higher Cell Phone Bills?

This article was written by in Consumer. 16 comments.


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.

TabletUnlike 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?

Photo: @iannnnn
CNN Money

Published or updated February 21, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Peter

I’m currently paying about $7/month via my Virgin Mobile prepaid cell service. I don’t have a smartphone, but I have an Ipod touch and Kindle Fire that i can use whenever there is open wi-fi – which is a lot of places these days. I don’t really feel like I’m missing out that much. At this point I guess i’m not eating up much of the bandwith with my personal use, but with the low prices I’m paying if my costs were to go up slightly, it’d probably still be fine.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,550 (Platinum)

$7 a month! That’s much less expensive than I even thought possible. Is that supplemented with a home phone? Until recently, I’ve been mobile-only, but working from home I needed a more reliable (and not battery-draining) way of sitting on conference calls and such.

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avatar Peter

Yeah, we still have a home phone as well, but mainly because my wife feels like she needs it for some reason. I don’t think she completely trusts the new fangled wireless technology.

I’m a pretty infrequent user of mobile minutes, and I’m on a grandfathered plan – so my costs are extremely cheap. :)

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

My wife & I have a t-mobile family plan where we pay 100 a month for “free” minutes & text messaging but we each have a data/web plan so we pay about 140-150 a month. Flexo, I don’t think american consumers should be ready for just higher cell phone bills but higher bills for cable tv, utilities, gas prices, food prices, airline tickets, airline parking, etc.

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avatar Squeezer

I think cell phone plans would be less expensive if during EVERY commerical break on TV, there wasn’t an advertisement for Verizon, AT&T, etc.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

I’m with Peter. Also have a prepaid Virgin Mobile, $10 to top up every 45 days. Never had a problem, but this phone is for short calls and emergencies. It is not my main telephone, I have a land line at home.

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avatar bax

I’m ready. I’m also ready for the iPhone / taser though, so I might be different.

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avatar csdx

I haven’t kept up on the latest specturm allocation, but I wonder if the government might consider reallocating some of it to the mobile networks. I know talk of just how the spectrum is allocated has circulated around before. This would push back the ‘peak cell-phone’ time. I think some was freed up by broadcast TV going digital but it might just be that there’s just more room for broadcast channels within the same spectrum. But there are resources out there, whether from legacy techonolgies, unallocated space, or even just efficiencies in transmission, so the peak cell capacity is also a moving target.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,550 (Platinum)

More ranges of spectrum are available… some owned by the government, some privately. Either way, getting them into the hands of the dwindling number of mobile companies is going to be expensive for those companies that survive. Plus, since the available spectrum ranges aren’t continuous, there’s a cost to develop technology that better bridges the available pieces of the spectrum.

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avatar TakeitEZ ♦549 (Dime)

I pay about $85 a month for 4GB data + 450 minutes + 500 text through Verizon. I don’t ever come close to using all my minutes and text but I really like to be able to go online whenever I want. I would likely pay more for the service since I really like to use the internet for all different purposes away from my home.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

My phone bill averages $320/month for two androids and two iPhones, with unlimited data family plan. I call my carrier a couple of times a year to pitch a fit with them and ask ways to lower my bill. I cannot afford for it to get any higher. It’s already higher than some folks’ car payments. Ugh…

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avatar Michael

My wireless bill has been fairly steady for the past six months. Each month, I pay total about $108 per month, including taxes and surcharges. This is for two lines, family plan 1400 anytime minutes, $10 @ 1000 text message grandfathered package for only primary line, grandfathered unlimited data for only primary line, and unlimited mobile to mobile, and grandfathered unlimited A-List calls.

Doesn’t seem too bad, but hardly using all the minutes and data. Time to downsize, perhaps.

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avatar PFM

We pay $116 total for a 3 line family plan through Verizon, 700 shared min, unlim nights & weekends and calls to other verizon mobile, unlim texts (which we need for the teenager), but no data. I’ve been looking at switching to a no-contract provider to save money and get a data plan.
I took a look at FamilyMobile at Walmart (it’s on the T-Mobile network), $45 for 1st phone, $35 each for next 2, so $115 for all three, unlim talk, text & web, I would have to buy 3 new phones, so I wouldn’t save any money but would have more service for same monthly cost. Still looking for something less costly.

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avatar Kay

I pay about $70/mo on Sprint with an Android smart phone, 450 minutes (only counted on calls to landlines, before 7PM… otherwise, unlimited voice), unlimited data+text. When my brother was on my plan and we had a 2-line family plan, I was paying about $60/mo and so was he.

Take advantage of your employers’ discounts with any of the carriers… I get a 25% discount just for being an employee which basically negates all the stupid taxes and extra “fees” they tack on to the bill each month.

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avatar Jeff

Wireless is by far my least favorite bill. I think since I first got a phone in 2004, my monthly cost has tripled. I was foolishly letting my wife and Mom use separate plans up until a few months ago, which literally cost $300 between the three of us.

Switching to a Verizon share plan with just a limited 150 MB data plan for myself brought it down to $180 or so, but I think that fact that everyone needs wireless and most want (though probably don’t need) data plans is one reason why low and middle class families are stretched. An average family’s phone bill was likely $30 or less a decade ago; now I’d bet $200 is the average for a family of four with smart phones. Only about 700% inflation (think wages probably haven’t kept pace)

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avatar qixx ♦1,895 (Half-Dollar)

I have a home phone. As for cell phone i have not paid a cell phone bill for years. Once it was no longer covered by work i got rid of the phone. Saves me a bundle.

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