Equity in the cellular world

Don't be cruel telcos. Vinnie over at Deal Architect and others are venting at the cellular telcos. The issues du jour are: high cost of international roaming, locked SIM cards, the cost to upgrade, and inability to buy unlocked phones like the iPhone.
Written by Brian Sommer, Contributor

Don't be cruel telcos


Vinnie over at Deal Architect and others are venting at the cellular telcos. The issues du jour are:

- high cost of international roaming - locked SIM cards - the cost to upgrade - inability to buy unlocked phones like the iPhone - etc.

I've got three phones off contract with T-Mobile. One other phone has already been moved off its old carrier and T-Mobile might get the boot soon. My list of issues with T-Mobile includes:

- T-Mobile's unwillingness to cut me a price break when they aren't recovering the cost of a subsidized phones from my ancient devices. I actually purchased replacement phones for two of these old T-Mobile phones awhile ago. - T-Mobile's unwillingness to carry any of the mid-to-high end Nokia phones - T-Mobile's unwillingness to carry the iPhone (I know they do in Europe but not in the US due to the deal they cut with AT&T)

I stopped at the Nokia store on Michigan Avenue here in Chicago yesterday. They've got some great phones that will work on the T-Mobile network. What I have trouble with is that I will pay full retail for a phone and yet T-Mobile will give me no credit against my bill for bringing my own phone to the party. However, if I wanted some other phone that T-Mobile is subsidizing, then I can get it for free or a nominal fee with, again, no difference in rates. That's just not equitable.

T-Mobile even hired a market research firm to survey me to find out why I'm likely to abandon them. I've told their CSRs and their 'customer retention' professionals why I'll bolt but these folks can't change policy. They can only tell me that their carrier doesn't offer the phones I want (e.g., Nokia E90 or E71, or, Apple iPhone) and will not change their pricing to accommodate those of us who want to bring our phones to a carrier. Sure, we have phone number portability but not phone or carrier portability.

Apple is a mixed bag for me, too. I'm still unimpressed that they have an exclusive deal with Apple. That deal is an expensive one for iPhone users and is the single biggest reason I won't switch to AT&T. A more consumer friendly approach by Apple would have been to make the unit available at every carrier and let the competitive forces between carriers drive lower costs for all cell phone users. That didn't happen and consumers are paying for it.

When Vinnie, et.al., complain about the cost of roaming, etc., the real issue is often much larger and distinct. The focus of our concerns should be directed at the overly cozy relationship between some of the carriers and some of the equipment providers. Another focus of concern should be the absent or silent action of regulators at the state and federal level to condone these business practices. The cellular market is not truly competitive and is not consumer-friendly. If you don't believe me, go back and re-read your voluminous 2-year customer agreement with your carrier.

Until the market changes, get used to getting burned Vinnie. As for me, I'm bringing a big jar of Vaseline to the next cell store I enter.

***** Talk about timing

As I am putting the last touches on this, what do I read? The Feds are getting interested in the exclusive deals being struck between carriers and cell phone manufacturers.

Let's hope something comes of this.

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