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He said carriers need to stop focusing on luring in new subscribers and instead set their sights on getting existing customers to use more of the network

AT&T's CEO recently said that carriers could no longer afford to pay subsidized prices for subscribers' new smartphone hardware.
 
According to a new report from CNET, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told an investor conference in New York City on Tuesday that subsidies for high-end smartphones must end.
 
More specifically, Stephenson sees smartphone market penetration at 75 percent in the U.S., and it's expected to climb to 90 percent "soon." This kind of growth, he said, means that carriers need to stop focusing on luring in new subscribers and instead set their sights on getting existing customers to use more of the network.
 
"When you're growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network," said Stephenson. "But as you approach 90 percent penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can't afford to subsidize devices like that." 
 
Before Apple's iPhone launched in 2007, wireless carriers placed their focus on bringing new subscribers in to the network. Once the iPhone was released, it was made exclusive to AT&T initially, where the carrier offered unlimited data plans through its 3G network as a way of drawing in data-hungry customers who wanted the new iDevice. 
 
In 2010, AT&T was the first carrier to eliminate the unlimited data model and move to tiered plans instead.
 


Randall Stephenson [SOURCE: phonearena.com]

But the goals have changed for AT&T. Now that the iPhone and other smartphones have flooded the market, it wants to move away from subsidized pricing as a way of building customer growth and instead help customers make better use of its network. 

One of the ways it has done this is through its Next plan. This allows customers to purchase a new handset with no money down and pay a monthly fee for 20 months as part of their wireless bill. After one year, the handset can be traded in for an upgrade to newer hardware. From there, a new 20-month cycle starts based on the price of the device.

"If you are a customer and you don't need to upgrade your device, you can get unlimited talk and text and access to the data network for $45 all-in," said Stephenson. "You can use your own device or finance it. I think this will be very powerful. It's where we see the market going."

AT&T also recently reduced off-contract prices and changed its base costs for each data tier. 

Stephenson added that AT&T will be looking more toward the lower end of the market now that capacity problems have been addressed for the high end (thanks to LTE). Part of the low-end strategy is utilizing its latest purchase of Leap Wireless, a prepaid carrier that AT&T purchased for $1.2 billion back in July of this year.

"You will see us go very aggressively in the prepaid market," said Stephenson.

It seems like AT&T has been watching T-Mobile's latest "UnCarrier" moves. T-Mobile eliminated contracts for reduced cell phone plans in March and was the first to introduce an early phone upgrade program in July. Then, in October, it started offering a free unlimited international text and data plan.

More recently, T-Mobile announced Tuesday that it would be dropping down payments for Apple's new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C handsets, as well as certain iPad models. It's a limited holiday offer, though. 

Source: CNET



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By Accord99 on 12/11/2013 4:31:52 PM , Rating: 2
In Canada, if you have a Tab plan you can pay it off anytime you want and then ask for a BYOD discount. Or you simply cancel the plan or port out the number, and they'll bill the remainder of the subsidy plus a contract termination fee of between $0-$50 depending on the provider and the province you're in.


By Monkey's Uncle on 12/11/2013 6:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
Have you tried paying off a tab? I have - with both Bell and Telus.

The only way out of a Tab is:

1. Keep paying your monthly bill -- 10% goes to your tab.
2. End the contract.

Both told me in no uncertain terms that there is absolutely no way to make a lump sum payment to your TAB. The only way to pay it off are those that I have listed.

Here's another one for you. The independent operators (kiosks and big box stores) will not sell you a high-end phone outright. They will only sell you a phone on a monthly plan with a tab (they don't get as much commission on hardware-only sales so will refuse to sell you just the phone).


By Accord99 on 12/11/2013 10:45:02 PM , Rating: 2
Bell and Telus (or Rogers) don't have a Tab, they have the classical contract system whereby the device subsidy balance you received upfront is reduced by 1/24th of the initial subsidy each month (for the now maximum 2 year contracts). The only way to pay of the subsidy early is to cancel the plan, or to do an early renewal to get a new subsidized device.

A true Tab is like with Koodo which reduces the outstanding Tab by 15% of your monthly bill, can be paid off at any time and with current regulations, automatically zeroes out after 24 months.


By Monkey's Uncle on 12/12/2013 10:58:03 AM , Rating: 2
Virgin is a subsidiary of Bell. No early payoff of tab without cancelling the plan. Got that directly from their CS rep on the phone when I asked them how I can pay off the tab on SGS4. I was NOT amused. Even fired a note off to Richard Branson about it.

Koodo (sub of Telus) said the same thing to me when I wanted to pay off a tab on one of my SGS3s. I cancelled my contract with them, paid off my SGS3 and took that phone to Virgin.

Both said the only way to pay the tab is via the 10% reduction of with each monthly payment or by cancelling the plan. Period. No other options. I didn't want to cancel the plans as they were a really good value.


By Monkey's Uncle on 12/12/2013 11:01:51 AM , Rating: 2
I see you have "with current regulations".

Those "current regulations" to don't come into play unless your tab was started after those regulations came into effect. In both cases for me this was before these regulations were imposed in Canada. In short they have to be written into your agreement. If they were not, there is no early payout without terminating your plan.


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