Wireless Bills Go Up, and Stay Up

Competition in the US wireless market has increased, but so have Americans' overall phone bills.

While carriers have trimmed the price of their plans here and there in recent months, billings per user continue to grow amid a shift to smartphones and a surge in wireless Internet use.

The results call into question the notion of a price war in the US market. Rather than aggressively compete outright on price, carriers are tailoring their moves to accomplish other goals as well, like weaning customers off expensive smartphone subsidies and encouraging them to use more data. T-Mobile US raised the cost of its core unlimited data plan. The carrier says it has been competing more effectively by doing away with subscriber "pain points" like service contracts and international data fees. But its executives have also been signaling that they don't plan to start a price war.

"When you really analyze a lot of the pricing moves that have been made, there has not been a significant repricing," Chief Financial Officer Braxton Carter said. To be sure, subscribers can find deals that weren't available before. AT&T said it will cut the price of plans offering unlimited voice and text with two gigabytes of wireless Internet use by $15. A subscriber who brings or buys his own phone can pay as little as $65 a month, about 19% less than previously.

[March 10]

Wireless Bills Go Up, and Stay Up