Farewell, decent cell phone plans, it was nice knowing you

expensive-plansUnlike the rest of the Pocketables team, I’m not American. I live in Norway, and a lot of things work differently here. One of those things used to be cell phone plans, which for years worked differently from the US system. Most plans didn’t include any minutes, messages, or anything like that, but instead gave you various per-use price models offset by a monthly fee. Buying phones without a plan used to be very common, and buying a subsidized phone basically meant you got a cheaper phone but a more expensive plan.

Looking through various carriers’ available plans now, I’m horrified at how things have changed. Norwegian carriers are starting to adopt the US model of doing things, rather than the other way around. The old plans where you paid for whatever you used are near extinction, replaced by various plans that include a certain amount of minutes, messages, and data. What they all have in common is that if I ever left my grandfathered plan and had to choose one of the new ones, I would end up paying a lot more for a lot less.

Right now, I have a plan that doesn’t have a monthly fee aside from what I use, though with a minimum billing amount of about $8. It’s one of the benefits of having an older phone, as I don’t have to pay off the subsidy anymore. I have a data plan attached to it that gives me a gigabyte of data for about $15 each month, and since I actually consistently use less than that and less than the $8 minimum billing amount on the plan itself, my monthly cell phone bill has been about $23 for as long as I can remember.

If I were to switch, I would be forced to pick a plan that includes both minutes and messages that I have less than no use for. $23 towards a current plan gets me 100 minutes I don’t need, 100 messages I don’t need, and a measly 100MB that I need more of. Going up to about $40 a month gets me up to unlimited messages and minutes (that I still have less than no use for), as well as 800MB; enough, but still less than what I have now. From there on up, I just get more data the more I pay, and of course those unlimited minutes and messages.

To me, this development is horrible. The carriers know that data is the future, and so they’re trying to remove all ways of getting data that doesn’t also force a ton of minutes and messages on you. There’s no longer any plan that works the way my grandfathered plan works, with the closest being one where you have to buy data in bulk as you need it, resulting in a monthly cost that- you guessed it- is higher than what I have now.

It used to be that cell phone plans actually got cheaper for every year, at least here in Norway. Lately they’re getting more and more expensive, which is consistent with inflation, but also creates a situation where people like me are scared to ever touch anything relating to their accounts for the fear of losing the old plan. It’s rather ridiculous, and it has to make it much harder for these companies to get people on the new plan, or get new customers from other carriers.

I don’t know if this development is representative of other countries, but I sure hope not. Either way, it seems that my phone bill will see a sudden rise if I ever decide to change my plan.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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