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Mobile prices go up. How about better services, then?

One after another, all the UK's mobile phone networks have hiked their prices.
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

One after another, all the UK's mobile phone networks have hiked their prices.

How convenient that they all had the same idea within a week of each other. So much for competition. Price-fixing? Well, it's not illegal, but it's hard to believe they haven't been colluding. However, though it sounds like bumping up prices, all they are in fact doing is cutting subsidies. Mobile operators' mantra has always been to cram in the customers at any cost. If network capacity or customer service suffered, never mind. In a land grab, it doesn't matter who gets trodden underfoot. This meant that handsets were subsidised to the hilt. If you buy one of the £39.99 handsets, you pay less than it costs to produce them. There's a piece of vintage dot-com thinking: bend over backwards to get the customers in, and hope they spend enough money to cover your expenses. These days mobile networks are looking less like factories for printing money, and more like black holes for pouring it into. So it's good to see they're getting serious about not squandering money - at least if you're a shareholder, not if you're a teenager saving up for your first mobile, perhaps. This may not be the last price hike the mobile networks have got together to bring us, either. But in the optimistic statement they put on what is really a massive price hike, there is all sorts of stuff about "focusing on customer retention" and "improving the user experience". If only... There are plenty of ways to improve the user experience, but somehow we don't think these will be in place by the time the last £39.99 handsets leave the shops: Fewer price plans - there are nearly 100 different tariffs, contracts and deals you can sign for a mobile phone. A little less confusion marketing and a bit more honesty would make life easier for everyone. Cheaper roaming charges - some analysts reckon roaming charges will be going up, not down, which is idiotic. Telcos have discovered time and again that when prices go down, usage goes up and revenues increase. Not to mention user happiness. Better customer service - they're improving, but there's still some way to go. One silicon staffer was given a free six month extension to his contract, but never told about it until he called four months after it was due to expire. Better coverage - try making a call in the City of London at lunchtime. And while you're at it, how about GPRS? Quite a wish list. Somehow, we doubt it will happen as quickly and efficiently as the price hike.
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